My Daughter’s Coming Out Taught Me To Be A Survivor
Watching her thirteen-year-old own her queer identity gave Georgie Burg the courage to take her abuser to court.
Georgia Burg’s daughter has taught her how to be many things - courageous, fearless, brave… and a survivor. As a child, Georgie experienced sexual assault at the hands of a priest who targeted youth in his care. For decades, Georgie didn’t take legal action against the prolific paedophile. It was only when her young daughter Mia came out that Georgie realised the power in owning her identity. Weeks after Mia openly embraced her queer identity, Georgie began taking steps to serve justice to her abuser.
Coming Out As A Catalyst
Mia came out to her parents as queer just shy of her thirteenth birthday - the same age Georgie had been when she was targeted by her rapist. Georgie and her husband were supportive and proud and watched Mia blossom into an active member of the LGBTQI community, campaigning for inclusiveness at her school.
“I was watching Mia living her life just the way she was meant to live it,” Georgie said.
Watching Mia’s fearlessness, cogs in Georgie’s mind began to turn.
“There were a number of conflicting things happening in my own head,” she said.
“I found it a bit harder to look at her.”
Watching her three children made Georgie think about protecting her daughters and other potential victims.
But looking at Mia made her think about the importance of being courageous in the face of hardship. Having battled with illness as a child and an ongoing chronic pain condition called Patello Femoral Pain Syndrome, Mia’s has had a turbulent childhood, She sometimes needs a cane to walk and has never as physically active as her peers.
“One day I looked at her and I thought gee, she’s just so little and she’s so brave,” Georgie said.
John Philip Aitchison has abused at least eight known survivors during his long career as a member of the Anglican church. He was only recently imprisoned for nine years in August, pleading not guilty to raping Georgie between 1987 - 1989 during her formative years. His youngest known victim was just seven years old. It took Georgie almost four years to see justice served, having to relive and explain her trauma time and time again.
However, throughout the ordeal, her husband, two other children, and Mia supported her.
“Mia has never once said this is hard, you should let it go,” Georgie said.
“She’s always been saying keep going, please don’t give up, you need to think about the other kids.”
Georgie believes had it not been for the courageousness and vitality of her daughter, John Philip Aitchison would have walked free.
“Mia is the reason this guy won’t be able to rape other children.”
The Power Of Owning Your Identity
Her young daughter, now 17, has also taught Georgie the importance of accepting and owning her identity.
“Throughout my whole court case, my identity had to be frozen,” Georgie said.
“You’re only known as a set of initials - I’m listed as survivor number 577.”
However, once the paedophile priest was imprisoned, Georgie decided to have her own ‘coming out’ experience.
“I saw the ripple effect coming out had on people in the LGBTQI community,” Georgie said.
“Watching them do something so brave, take steps themselves - people would never predict the effect they could have on others by themselves being so courageous.”
Georgie ousted herself in the media as a survivor of the priest’s abuse in the hopes more would come forward and seek support.
“Because I did that, others can too,” she said.
Georgie believes the most important thing young people can do is be proud of who they are.
“Create a situation in your own life that is authentic, real, powerful and valuable - not just for yourself but for the broader global community.”
Georgie believes this lesson had been passed up by her daughter, showing sometimes being a parent isn’t just about teaching - it’s about learning.
Amber Schultz is a reporter, writer, and producer striving to make social issues resonate with readers.
She was recently awarded the Jacoby-Walkley, and has worked as a reporter at The Age, associate producer at Nine News in Sydney and presenter, producer, and writer at start-up satirical talk show The Struggle.
Amber has a Master of International Relations and Journalism from Monash University and has a keen interest in foreign affairs and satire.