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The Witness to an unspeakable act sings out

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TRIGGER WARNING: Child exploitation.

There have been days over the last few years, where blues singer-songwriter Dorothy-Jane Gosper has had trouble stringing even a few words together.

In 2016, she faced a nightmare in which she witnessed her husband molesting a child.

Incredible upheaval followed—in which he was sentenced to prison and she was left with massive financial debts she had no idea about, losing the stability of having a roof over her head.

And then in 2018, Dorothy-Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Out of such despair, Dorothy-Jane did what she knew what to do, she composed music and let her heart and voice do the rest.

The Witness is Dorothy-Jane’s ninth album, but it is her most important. It will be launched on Sunday 22 March at Smith’s Alternative.

“I had to make this album, not only as a way to heal and process what I and others have been through, but also to help remind others that not only does this type of abuse happen every day, but that it is possible to expose it, to find justice and to grow beyond it,” says Dorothy-Jane.

“In telling my story I hope people have the courage to call out abuse where they see it, to question where they suspect it, and to be ready to help those facing abuse to make that difficult step of telling someone about it.”

The album covers many aspects of child sexual abuse that may not be apparent to those who have not experienced it.

“There are so many aspects to this kind of abuse. For example, the control exercised by the perpetrator. In this case, the child didn’t speak out because my husband had told her if people found out he would go to jail. He twisted things to make it her fault if he went to jail.

“In this case I found myself not only dealing with the betrayal of my husband, and the breakdown of the marriage, but it also led to me not having a safe place to live, not to mention the extended fallout experienced by everyone affected by his actions.

“I lost a lot by reporting my husband to the authorities and the ordeal that followed, but I’d do the same again.”

Dorothy-Jane says she hopes the album raises awareness and builds on the momentum of increased community awareness.

“There is no doubt things have improved. As a girl, I was inappropriately touched by a family member. It happened in front of other family members. I objected loudly. But when I looked to the women in the room, they carried on as if nothing had happened. I wish someone had spoken up for me, but I think they didn’t know what to do and just accepted it. It’s good that by 2016 things had changed and my husband was stopped as soon as we found out. But abuse is still going on and we need to stay vigilant to help protect more kids.”

The album was recorded in Canberra and features local professional musicians was made possible by support of Dorothy-Jane’s friends in the recording and music industry as well as donations through a Go Fund Me page.

With songs titled Lay my Troubles down, Girl Song, Will I ever Love Again, Grief, Monsters, and Speak Out, Dorothy-Jane admits it might be tough going to get through such an emotional set-list.

“It is a big ask for these musos to get into these uncomfortable emotional spaces with me to do these songs justice. It is so difficult to talk about, but I will always call it out for what it is.”

the essentials

What: The Witness album launch
When: Sunday 22 March from 4–6 pm
Where: Smith’s Alternative,
Find more information and buy tickets: smithsalternative.com/events/dorothy-jane

Photography: Geoffrey Dunn.

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