WARNING: ARTICLE CONTAINS SEXUAL ASSAULT DETAILS THAT MAY BE DISTRESSING AND TRIGGERING TRAUMA FOR SOME READERS
A father has broken his silence, revealing the moment he was forced to confront his own dad over claims he had sexually abused his then 7-year-old daughter.
In 1996, Australian Ian Johnston took his then 7-year-old daughter Kayleen to her grandparents' place in New Zealand, a home he thought was safe.
The darkness of night soon dropped over the grandparents' home, with Ian telling Kayleen it's time to go to bed.
But her response was one of fear, begging dad not to let her sleep alone in her grandfather's home.
Shaking with fear, Kayleen refused to go to bed. Her father calmed her down, then asked a question no father wants to ask their own daughter: "Has anybody ever touched you down there?"
Her answer would change her family's life forever.
After composing herself, she turned to her dad and said: "Poppy".
Three days after wrestling with the knowledge his own father, Alec Johnston, had sexually abused his daughter, Ian confronted him.
But it was his own father's response that left the family broken and confirmed he was a paedophile.
"It was only a little touch, son", the unremorseful father said.
Filled with rage, Ian explained the struggles both he and his daughter have faced in the aftermath of the horrific abuse.
Ian told Daily Mail Australia he'd have been prepared to go to jail to seek revenge on his daughter's abuser, but what stopped him was the fact the abuser was his own 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," Ian said.
"I spent so long with so much rage. But if I'd killed him I'd have gone to prison. He'd win, I'd lose. But when you're in that zone you don't see it like that.
"I rung him and said 'dad, your f****d, I'm pressing charges' and he said 'this'll kill me'... I said 'well you've already killed me'," Ian said.
Ian Johnston, Hetty Johnston, and Kayleen Johnston. Photo / Bravehearts Child Protection
KAYLEEN'S BRAVERY EXPOSES GRANDFATHER'S LONG-RUNNING ABUSIVE HISTORY
Kayleen's bravery to tell her father what really happened soon uncovered an even bigger family secret.
After returning home to Australia from Ian's parents' place in New Zealand, Kayleen's mum Hetty wrote a letter to the whole family revealing what Alec had done to Kayleen.
A serious of phone calls and letters then exposed Alec, with the family discovering he has been sexually assaulting girls in the family for more than 40 years.
Alec Johnston later pleaded guilty to 22 counts of indecent assault and spent four years behind bars.
"Giving evidence was probably one of the most confronting experiences for me," Kayleen told Mamamia.
"I remember sitting in a police interview room with the awful two-way mirror staring back at me. I was in a room, with a person I didn't know, being asked to give detailed information about some of the most confusing and terrifying things that I'd ever been through."
Kayleen later received counselling, something she says allowed her to "be a child" again.
"I can't tell you how important counselling was for me. It's hard to explain, but before counselling I just felt 'heavy'.
"I'd kept this secret for years and when I finally told someone, my whole world changed.
"Things were happening, people wanted to talk to me about it, most of my family were sad, and some of my family were in trouble. I thought it was all my fault. It was confusing and scary and I felt like the whole world was staring at me.
"Counselling helped me sort through those feelings. By the time I left counselling, I felt confident about myself and my place in the world. I didn't feel like what had happened was my fault. I guess I felt empowered. I was given permission to be a child again.
"Without that support, I truly don't know how I would've managed those feelings. My life could have turned out very different."
The last time Ian saw his own father was outside court the day he was sentenced.
When Alec died, Ian refused to go to his funeral, saying he had to make a choice between his father or his daughter.
Since the horrific experience, the family have created Bravehearts - Australia's leading child protection organisation.
It was founded by Hetty Johnston, with the help of Ian Johnson, in 1997, shortly after Kayleen's abuse was uncovered.
Where to get help:
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline:0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.