Finding Hope After Childhood Abuse – Mel's Story - Hope 103.2

Finding Hope After Childhood Abuse – Mel’s Story

After an extremely pain childhood, Mel Baker did her best to survive but she started to give up until she came face-to-face with her angel.

By Georgia FreeWednesday 30 Nov 2022Finding HopeLifeReading Time: 5 minutes

Warning: The following article contains mentions of sexual assault and suicide. If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you have been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

Dr Mel Baker’s life is hard to describe in a few words – or even a few sentences. She has been through worse pain, hurt and abuse than some could ever imagine. But that’s not what defines her. Her identity is in something far greater.

A stolen childhood

Born in Sydney, Mel had a relatively happy early childhood. She was the youngest of three by about 10 years – but the age gap led to abandonment by her mother.

“My older [siblings] were nine and 11 years older than me. My family had lived life before I was born,” Mel told the Finding Hope podcast.

“I was always told I was a mistake. [My mum] basically said ‘I want my life now.’”

Although her mother wasn’t around much, Mel’s father made up for that loss in spades.

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“At first, he was really loving. I felt like a princess in the early years,” Mel said.

“He owned a menswear store and he would take me to work with him and we would play in the back storeroom.”

But when Mel was four, her idyllic childhood was shattered when her father began sexually abusing her.

“Because my brother and sister were so much older, it was a vacant house – with him and I,” she said.

Abuse soon became her normal – and eventually, her father betrayed her even further.

“By the time I was seven, he would invite his business partners around… and they would abuse me together.”

She has been through worse pain, hurt and abuse than some could ever imagine. But that’s not what defines her. Her identity is in something far greater.

Breaking point

Mel’s abuse continued on and off for most of her childhood. Her mother continued to be primarily absent in her life, so she had no safe adult she could turn to. Teachers at school never noticed anything serious was wrong, despite Mel often acting out in class. The abuse remained a secret.

Then, when Mel was 15, her father pulled a gun on her in a drunken rage.

In that moment, Mel knew she only had one choice in order to survive – to fight.

“I heard the click going over [in the gun],” she said.

I was shouting at him and the only thing I could do was knock him out.

“He was a big man, too.”

Mel then put a blanket over him, hid the gun in a cupboard and put a bell on her bedroom door – to warn her if he tried to come in.

Sleeping under the Harbour Bridge

Shortly following the incident, Mel’s dad stopped paying her school fees, forcing her to leave school at the end of Year 10. She then found a job as a graphic artist, which she enjoyed, but was forced to leave when her colleague sexually assaulted her. To make matters worse – her dad then kicked her out of the house.

Mel was now unemployed, out of school – and homeless. For a few weeks, she crashed on friends’ couches but eventually was forced out onto the streets of innercity Sydney.

In bitter cold nights, Mel found comfort underneath the pylons of Australia’s most famous landmark – the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Surrounded by discarded mattresses, chemical waste and rubbish, Mel often sought much needed rest there – knowing that the alternative of being on the streets after dark was even more dangerous.

She did her best to survive – earning money by working as a pool shark. However, after a few months of living on the streets, addicted to drugs and alcohol, she was starting to give up. She couldn’t see a way out and, just a few weeks before her 17th birthday, decided to try and end her life.

“We’d just gone through Christmas and I didn’t know how much longer I could hold onto hope,” Mel said

“One night, I was on a dead-end street in the middle of the night. No one was around, because no one lived in the city back then.

“I had a knife to my stomach.

“And suddenly a man appeared right in front of me.

“He was just there. And he had the most crystal-clear eyes. It was the first time that I felt that someone looked deep into my eyes and respected me for who I was.

“He was just there. And he had the most crystal-clear eyes. It was the first time that I felt that someone looked deep into my eyes and respected me for who I was.”

“And even though I wanted to reach death so much, I felt life.

“Then, suddenly, he was gone,” Mel said.

Mel didn’t know what the figure was (she has now come to recongise it as an angel), but it gave her hope to hold on a little longer.

“It was my first experience of a spiritual moment in my life. It held me.”

Saved by a Bible verse

Throughout everything, Mel had always been an optimistic person – and the image of the angel had given her something else to hold onto. The day before her 17th birthday, Mel decided to return home, out of necessity.

“We were coming into winter… and I thought that I wouldn’t survive on the streets,” Mel said.

“I’ll either end up in jail or die from someone else’s hands.

“Or I could go home, get off the drugs and alcohol and get my life in order.

“Both options stunk but I knew I had to go home.”

Once back home, Mel had to go through drug and alcohol withdrawals alone, in her room, with no support. But she did it – and two weeks later, she was starting to feel a little bit human again. She started sorting through books on her shelf, when she came across a Gideon Bible, which she had received on the first day of Year 7.

“The only thing my hand wanted to take, was the Gideon Bible.

“I had never opened it, but I pulled it off the shelf,” Mel said.

“I opened it at random, and right there in the middle of the page, were the words I needed to hear.

“Come to all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Come to all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Instantly, Mel felt a sense of calm – and a knowledge that she was not alone.

“It got me down on my knees and praying to a God that just kept on popping up,” she said.

“From then on, it was just trying to find my purpose.”

Listen to part one of Mel’s story on Finding Hope in the player above. Parts two to four are also available on hopepodcasts.com.au, on the Hope 103.2 app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Mel has written an autobiographical novel, Sleeping Under the Bridge, which is the first in a trilogy. For information on her book and Mel’s other work, visit drmelbakerbooks.com.