Breaking her silence in Silent Waves

It’s 9 pm. I’ve listened to all episodes of Silent Waves and my heart is pounding. It moves you and shakes the inner foundations of what it means to be human. Above all, it angers you. How can people be so cruel? How can we improve Australia’s justice with care and consideration for victims in mind? Why is speaking out about institutional abuse so taboo? Furthermore, how can we build and establish safe and open pathways for conversations to help prevent, recognise and report cases of institutional abuse?

Raquel O’Brien crafts Silent Waves as a conversational, matter of fact story of institutional abuse within her family. Instead of allowing us to peer behind a closed-door she tears it open and presents us with an emotional, eye-opening story into several facets of taboo topics. 

Raquel spent 18 months interviewing family members who recollect their shared family history and personal stories of abuse. The confronting, no-nonsense and open conversations in Silent Waves aim to peel back the layers on shared scars and past trauma, exposing the dark truths hidden by taboo and family secrecy. The facade that many institutions uphold is well and truly broken for the O’Brien family as Raquel, her brothers, uncle and mother to share their stories.

“I was born into a perfect family. Academic and athletic we were all high achievers,” Raquel states at the start of the podcast. 

“But behind our facade, we were all plagued by dark secrets. My family acted as an institution. As we know, institutions can provide the breeding grounds for abuse.” 

Silent Waves recounts sexual abuse at the hands of family members. Whilst it may not be for everyone, it is an important addition to the growing movement within us to speak out and share our own stories of past abuse. 

Sexual abuse statistics within Australia

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the most recent national figures indicate that during 2015-2016 there were 225,487 Australian children suspected of being harmed or at risk of harm from abuse and/or neglect. Furthermore, girls were significantly more likely to be the subject of cases of sexual abuse. The report also highlighted that less than 35 per cent of adults say they would report suspected child abuse to police, even if a child disclosed sexual abuse. 

Although this podcast is confronting, it is an incredible and much-needed story which needs to be discussed amongst professions and society in general. We are always told that what goes on within a family is ‘family business’ and what happens to children and adults behind closed doors stays a secret forever. 

“How many crimes go unreported because they’re considered family business?” Raquel poses this question to the listener at the start of the first episode. 

After the podcast, I wondered why no one outside the family circle noticed what Raquel and her family were experiencing. Is this another call to have professionally trained psychologists established within our school systems and to better educate children (within reason) what is not okay? If our ‘village’ doesn’t exist anymore and we’re confined to our families and houses, how are we expected to raise children successfully from the prison of our own creation?

Casefile Presents

Silent Waves intertwines storytelling with professional input and opinion from psychologists, lawyers and advocates which is why it is powerful. Intertwining personal anecdotes with professional opinion adds force to the already compelling story. Through Silent Waves Raquel illustrates the complex nature of the Australian justice system and the difficulties victims of abuse face, especially when those victims are children.

Casefile Presents is the new platform by Casefile, one of the most successful true crime podcasts around. You can read our interview with the creator of Casefile here. Silent Waves was produced in collaboration with Georgina Savage, a documentary filmmaker and photographer whose work focuses on social justice issues and marginalised communities. The podcast has now been remastered by the audio team behind Casefile to be re-released on the new Casefile Presents platform to help Raquel’s important story reach more listeners across the world.

Casefile Presents is a brand new podcasting platform created by global podcast sensation Casefile True Crime, whose catalogue has had over 280 million downloads worldwide. Casefile Presents aims to create a space for existing podcasts to reach a wider audience while also providing a platform for new podcast projects and talent to voice their stories.

Ezra Magazine did not receive payment, goods or services to write this review.