A WOMAN who was sexually abused as a young child by her brother-in-law has confronted the man in court, saying his betrayal has left her traumatised.
The 37-year-old central Victorian man was stoic as the woman told the County Court that she had been the "strongest, most confident little girl" before the abuse.
"You left me mentally disabled and completely broken," the woman told the man on Monday. "You stole my childhood. I will never get that back."
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A County Court jury last month found the man guilty on charges of indecent act with a child under 16 and sexual penetration of a child under 16.
Court documents released to the Bendigo Advertiser said the man began abusing his sister-in-law when the girl was about 10 years old and he was in his early 20s.
He and his wife - the girl's sister - lived at the same property as the 10-year-old.
On the first occasion of abuse, the girl was massaging the man's back when he told her to massage his legs.
He kept telling the girl to move her hands up higher before grabbing one of her hands and placing it on his groin.
The girl pulled her hand away and moved away from the bed. He told the 10-year-old not to tell anyone because it was just an accident.
About a month later, the man drove the young girl out to a rural area. He allowed her to drive his vehicle, instructing her to sit on his lap while she used the steering wheel.
The man initially held the girl around the waist before starting to sexually assault her.
The girl manoeuvred the car in a deliberate attempt to crash it into a dip in the road. The man applied both the foot and hand brake, causing the vehicle to slide sideways.
Once the ute stopped moving, the girl told the man she did not want to drive anymore and moved back into the passenger seat.
A few months later, the girl was helping her sister babysit the couple's newborn daughter.
When the 10-year-old's sister left to go and assist with some of the farming chores, the girl looked after the baby with the man.
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They were all laying on a bed, with the baby in between the two of them, when the 10-year-old fell asleep.
The girl woke to the man lying behind her in a 'spooning' position. The girl froze and pretended she was still asleep.
The man proceeded to sexually assault the girl. Court documents said the girl held in her tears throughout the assault.
The final incident happened about four years later while the girl's parents were away.
She was sleeping in her parents' bed when the naked man positioned himself behind her.
He placed his arm around her torso before he sexually assaulted her. The 14-year-old yelled at the man to get off of her but he told her to go back to sleep.
The girl was crying as she pushed away from him. The man got up, apologised, and told her not to tell anyone.
After the incident, the girl disclosed the abuse to her cousin. Her cousin informed her school, which then passed on the information to the girl's parents.
The 14-year-old's family decided to deal with the disclosure internally, in an attempt to stop the man from taking his wife and young daughter away as he had threatened.
The family had a meeting to deal with the complaint, where the girl refused to disclose the matter further and even asked what she had to do in order to continue her relationship with her sister and niece.
The girl was ultimately made to apologise to the accused in person.
A few years later, the man called the victim where he apologised for the offending and made excuses for his conduct.
When the girl's sister separated from the man, the victim felt comfortable disclosing the abuse to police.
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The victim on Monday read out a statement to the County Court. She held back tears as she spoke of her trauma.
"You let me look you in the face and say sorry to you," the woman said. "It was one of the lowest points in my life.
"I don't believe I have ever felt so empty. For so many years, I was forced to hide away the pain. I trusted you like a brother and you broke my heart."
The girl's mother also read out a victim impact statement. She said she had the "overwhelming feeling of gut-wrenching guilt".
"He betrayed my family in the most evil way," the woman said.
Defence counsel Emma Strugnell told the court character references spoke about the man's "genuine caring nature".
But Ms Strugnell said it was conceded that the offending was serious and the man's position of authority over the victim was an aggravating feature in the abuse.
The defence counsel also conceded that as the man took the case to trial, he would not receive any discount for his plea.
Judge Greg Lyon commended the victim for her integrity and courage in reading her statement to the court.
Judge Lyon adjourned the sentencing hearing to a date yet to be fixed. The 37-year-old man was remanded in custody.
If you or someone you know needs support, contact Centre Against Sexual Assault - Central Victoria on 5441 0430 or the Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
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