Sister victims of child sex assault say their abuser destroyed their essence and stole their childhood.
Jacinta and Elizabeth Welch appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Tuesday where they spoke of the historic sexual abuse inflicted on them more than 40 years ago by their mother's then-boyfriend.
The sisters are two of few victims-survivors of child sexual abuse to publicly tell their story in the south-west after legislative changes recently came into effect.
Laws prevent the media from identifying sexual assault survivors but the changes mean if victims wish to go public, they can without requiring a court order.
The sisters were aged between 10 and 16 when they were sexually abused by Gary John Bruce, now 68, at properties in Warrnambool and Allansford between 1981 and 1984.
Bruce pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three counts of indecent assault of a person under 16 and two counts of sexual penetration of a child aged between 10 and 16.
The charges are historic and at the time carried a maximum jail sentence of 15 years, which must be applied in sentencing.
The court heard that on one occasion, Bruce sexually penetrated his 10-year-old victim while her mother was asleep some five metres away.
The relationship ended in 1984 and there was no further contact between Bruce and the victims or their mother.
In January last year Jacinta asked Bruce during a pretext phone call if he thought her mother would have known about their "sexual times", in which he replied: "I wouldn't imagine so".
He was arrested almost immediately after that call, which was recorded by police.
The court heard Bruce didn't dispute the majority of the offending and admitted up to six additional acts of sexual penetration not previously divulged by the victims.
Jacinta told the court the impact was one of profound burden and loss.
She said Bruce took away her innocence as a child, her childhood relationship with her mother, as well as her voice, sense of safety and human rights as a child.
"To me, each point has contributed to a devastating divergence from the otherwise positive, strong, happy, functional and healthy trajectory that would have been my life. A life that I would have determined, a life I will never know," she said.
"Instead, Gary Bruce by his deliberate and self-serving deviate actions pushed me off course onto a trajectory I would not have, should not have travelled - a course imposed by him and endured, suffered and experienced by me as burden and loss in various areas of my life".
Jacinta said Bruce destroyed the essence of who she was and derailed who she was to become.
"I ceased to exist when I was 10 years old. He created a proxy, me - a diminished and broken version of her, my lost self, to move through life," she said.
"Until now his crime has been undetected. He didn't consider that one day I, the proxy, would speak up for her. We have a voice."
Elizabeth said the abuse created a wedge between her and Jacinta and they became distant in their childhood years.
"I regret that I didn't protect my younger sister from Gary Bruce," she said.
Elizabeth said Bruce destroyed her childhood and his "deviant actions have and always will affect my past, present and future".
"The abuse I endured haunts me every day," she said.
Bethany East, representing Bruce, said the offending was a serious and significant breach of trust, which Judge Michael Tinney replied: "It sure is".
Ms East said her client had previously held a number of voluntary roles in the south-west throughout his life, including decades at APEX in Warrnambool and Geelong, Bethany Community Support and Family Refuge, and coordinating a garden course at primary schools.
She said Bruce was now an elderly man with medical complications that would see prison weigh more heavily on him than someone without those conditions.
She said Bruce's mental health would likely deteriorate if incarcerated and urged the court to consider a suspended jail sentence.
Bruce was taken into custody and will be sentenced on May 16.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT.
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