’She knew what he had just done’

 

"MUM," Peta Butler said into the phone. "I want to talk about what happened to me."

It had been 10 years since Therese Butler took her daughter on a "girls' weekend" to Toowoomba. A weekend where she had plied her with alcohol before leaving her in a cheap motel room to be raped by a balding, obese man three times her age.

For minutes, Therese steered the conversation elsewhere. It was in the past, she said. But Peta, pleadingly, tearfully, persisted. It was the only way they could move forward as mother and daughter.

"Is anyone listening in the background?" Therese finally asked.

"No," Peta told her. She didn't mention her best friend standing beside her. Or the detectives just metres away. She didn't mention she was making the call from a police station, an ear piece in her ear, a recording device picking up every word.

It took close to 30 minutes for Therese to finally say the words that would see her jailed for organising her teenage daughter's rape.

Peta Butler from Brisbane tells her story to the Courier-Mail. Pics Adam Head
Peta Butler from Brisbane tells her story to the Courier-Mail. Pics Adam Head

She had tried to find another 16-year-old, she confessed. The man she had met online had wanted a young girl and she had wanted to give him one. When she hadn't found another girl, she had given him her daughter.

Peta took 10 years to tell her story to police. Today she is telling it publicly to give courage to other victims so they might find the strength to come forward.

It was 2006 when Therese, now 47, told her daughter they would be taking a weekend trip to Toowoomba.

They travelled by bus, visiting a McDonald's and then a bottle shop before Therese checked them into a nearby motel.

"She bought a four-pack of vodka Cruisers," Peta said.

"It turned out all four Cruisers were for me. She wasn't drinking at all."

Peta remembers being "quite tipsy" by the time a knock sounded on the motel room door.

The man on the other side was her mother's "boyfriend". A man Therese claimed to have been speaking to for two years after meeting him via an online match making site.

Therese Butler was this week sentenced to four years’ prison, which will be suspended after 12 months.
Therese Butler was this week sentenced to four years’ prison, which will be suspended after 12 months.

The man, who Therese had referred to as "Thommo", had threatened to cut contact with her unless she could find him a "younger version of herself" for him to have sex with.

Therese had made these bizarre comments to her daughter in the weeks before their trip in what Peta now believes were attempts to "groom" her.

"I had never met him before," she said.

There were no introductions and the man did not speak. Therese greeted him at the door with hugs and kisses before telling her daughter to go to the bedroom.

"Not long after that, he entered the room. He didn't say anything. He just literally walked up to me and took off his clothes and took off my pants," she said.

"I was frozen. I couldn't do anything. You know when you're so scared, it's like your vocal box just freezes up, you can't even speak? That's how I felt. I just couldn't move."

Peta believes her rapist was aged about 45 to 50. He was caucasian, had grey hair, shaved close, and a shaved face. His eyes were sunken. She remembers him being a big man, "very fat, extremely obese".

Peta Butler wants to give courage to other rape victims so they might find the strength to come forward. Picture: Adam Head
Peta Butler wants to give courage to other rape victims so they might find the strength to come forward. Picture: Adam Head

He raped her without saying a word while her mother smoked cigarettes outside the door of the motel room.

When he was done, Peta grabbed her clothes and ran out the front door.

"I said to mum that I wanted to go home," Peta said.

"And she just grabbed me, hugged me and said it will all be OK. She knew. She knew what he had just done. Given the comments she had made weeks prior ... that's when I put two and two together."

Therese entered the bedroom where she shared the bed with the man for the night while a distraught Peta slept on a fold-out couch.

At 5am, the man drove them to the bus station in silence. He drove them in a white sedan with leather seats. She recalls the car seemed expensive.

In the months that followed, Peta tried to talk to her mother about what had occurred but Therese refused to discuss it.

"That weekend I got back home, I dropped out of school. A lot of my friends I lost because I turned into someone they didn't know," Peta said.

Peta went on to have two daughters, and, as they grew, she decided to speak to a psychologist about what had happened to her.

Her psychologist suggested reporting the attack to police.

"They took it really seriously, but, at the same time, they said, 'how are we going to prove this?'" Peta said.

So she offered to call her mother to see if she could get her to admit what had occurred.

The phone call with Therese lasted 30 minutes.

Peta Butler reported what happened to police after talking to a psychologist. Picture: Adam Head
Peta Butler reported what happened to police after talking to a psychologist. Picture: Adam Head

A tearful, but quietly spoken Peta explains that she cannot move on with her life, with their relationship, until they talk about what occurred.

"It's in the past," Therese starts.

For much of it, Therese rants and raves about "Thommo", referring to herself as his victim, claiming she would like to kill him for "manipulating" her.

But, eventually, she admits to organising the rape of her teenage daughter.

"I tried to find another girl that was 16 so he didn't have to touch you. That's exactly what she says in the recording," Peta said.

"We got everything we needed in that one phone call.

"I broke down … my best friend was with me and I just leapt into her arms and lost it, crying, because it was a relief knowing it wasn't all for nothing."

Peta said she wanted to tell her story to give others the courage to report abuse.

"I wanted to talk for closure, but also because if there are any other boys or girls out there in a similar situation, I hope it gives them courage," she said.

"Even if they think no one will believe them, maybe someone will, and they might be able to get their closure too.

"I had to report my own mother, my biological mother. But she will never be my mother again and she will never be a grandmother to my children."

Police never discovered the identity of the man who raped Peta and she was not able to identify the motel where they stayed.

But her mother was this week sentenced to four years in prison, suspended after 12 months, after pleading guilty to procuring a child for carnal knowledge.

Anyone who recognises the man's description, or who may be able to help with his identity, should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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