Man relives moment he confronted own father over molesting his daughter

Man relives moment he confronted own father over molesting his daughter
Photo credit: Facebook / Kayleen Johnston

An Australian man has spoken out for the first time about the moment he had to ask his own father if he'd molested his daughter.

In 1996, Ian Johnston took his seven-year-old daughter Kayleen to New Zealand to visit his parents while his wife, Hetty, stayed home.

He told the Daily Mail that Kayleen hadn't been herself during the holiday, and would often burst into tears.

While at first he assumed she was just homesick, Johnston began to grow wary of his father Alec's behaviour around his young granddaughter, often ushering her away to look at his caravan.

"I started to think, 'This isn't right'," he told the Daily Mail.

One evening, Kayleen was more distressed than usual at bedtime. While her 'Poppy' had made her up her own bedroom, she begged her father not to make her sleep alone in the house.

He took his daughter into his own room, where he asked her a tough question: "Has anybody ever touched you down there?"

Kayleen's answer was simple but devastating: "Poppy."

Johnston reassured his daughter that she was safe now, before calling his wife to deliver the horrible news. Before returning to Australia, he confronted his father to ask him about Kayleen's allegation.

Alec Johnston's response was perhaps the most shocking thing of all.

"It was only a little touch, son."

Johnston told the Daily Mail he struggled with an internal battle over what to do. He said he'd always had an "amazing" close relationship with his father.

"You always say 'If anyone ever touches my daughter I'll kill them' - but when it's your own father, it's a different ballgame."

Filled with rage, he considered killing his own father but knew that would only put him in prison. Eventually he called him from Australia to tell him he would be pressing charges.

"He said, 'This'll kill me'. I said, 'Well, you've already killed me'."

Once her husband and daughter were home safe, Hetty Johnston wrote a 10-page letter detailing what her father-in-law had done to Kayleen and sent it to the rest of the family in New Zealand, asking for their support.

Eventually they uncovered a terrible secret: Alec Johnston had been sexually assaulting his young female relatives for more than 40 years.

He pleaded guilty to 22 counts of indecent assault and spent four years in prison. He died in 2012, and Johnston refused to attend the funeral.

In 1997, not long after the abuse was uncovered, Hetty Johnston founded Bravehearts with the help of her husband. It is now the leading child protection organisation in Australia, and provides free counselling and support to survivors of sexual abuse.

Now 30, Kayleen Johnston told Mamamia she considers herself fortunate despite what she went through.

"What makes me one of the lucky ones is that I have a Dad that supported me and believed me," she said.

"I have a Mum who stopped at nothing to make sure I was getting the support I needed, and I am extremely lucky that my family could afford to provide me with that support."


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