Sisters’ childhood of ‘sexual peril’
THE adult daughters of late Australian playwright and poet Dorothy Hewett have spoken out about the predatory sexual behaviour they allege occurred in their mother's home when they were children.
Rozanna and Kate Lilley detailed their unorthodox upbringing in a candid interview with Lisa Wilkinson that aired on The Sunday Project.
The Australian reported earlier this month that the sisters allege they were forced into sex aged 15 by men including the late writer Bob Ellis and artist Martin Sharp.
"I had the sense that we were in sexual peril from the time I was 12. It shouldn't have happened … I think we were just sitting ducks," Kate told Wilkinson on The Sunday Project.
The sisters said there were other men from their childhood they could name - including one who is still alive - but they were afraid to do so.
"I'm scared - already in just this last week we're just in this maelstrom and one of our brothers has disowned us, particularly me, and it's frightening; the whole thing is frightening," Kate said.
Dorothy Hewett was in her early 50s when she moved to Sydney from Perth in the 70s with second husband Merv Lilley and Rozanna, then 11 and Kate, 13.
Their Woollahra home was a beacon for artists and writers, with a "free love" atmosphere that extended to the young sisters.
"It was classically bohemian, so people would be up all night. There were people staying in the house constantly. You never know who you'd find sleeping around in different bits of the house. Occasionally there'd be fist fights, but more often drunk screaming matches," said Kate.
She said that her parents "didn't have an idea that children should be separated or have a special kind of life or attention … they thought we should just be in the mix.
"I think mum's idea was, once you hit puberty you were sexually in the world and you were kind of fair game."
By the time the sisters were both 16 - the legal age of consent - they had both had multiple sexual encounters. Rozanna remembered it as a confusing time.
"There were some people that I had things to do with that I don't remember in a bad way, and then there were other people who were very predatory and did very explicitly groom me in an obvious way. I feel quite hateful towards those people, so I have a range or emotions about that particular time," she told Wilkinson.
Kate was 15 when she had consensual sex with a man in his 30s. Soon after, she says she was sexually assaulted by another and then raped by another older man.
"That was the worst moment of my life. Mum had a relationship with him so I think she didn't want to know about this from me because I guess possibly she was already interested in him," Kate recalled.
The sisters confirmed the man was still alive.
"He knows who he is and he knows we're speaking about him at the moment," said Rozanna.
The sisters allege they were both preyed upon by writer Bob Ellis, who passed away two years ago - Kate at 15, Rozanna at 14.
"I was going to school one morning and mum and dad were asleep. He called me from the guest bedroom: 'Come here child, come here child.' He just grabbed my hand and shoved his hand down his pants … and then he walked me to school."
Rose said she and her sister had found it "very tiring" going public with their allegations but that "every time you tell it, you feel a little bit less ashamed."