#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · biography · memoir · non-fiction · Throwback Thursday · true crime · Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by Katherine X and Sue Smethurst


Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!

Four children by her father. Thirty years of horrific sexual abuse.behind closed doors small

Now updated with a new epilogue, detailing Katherine’s brave stand at the Royal Commission

In March 2009, Joseph Fritzl was sentenced to life in jail for the systematic imprisonment, torture and rape of his daughter Elisabeth over 24 years, fathering seven children. The case shocked the world.

But just a month before, the story of Australia’s own house of horrors was emerging in a Victorian country town.

Under a blanket of suppression orders, a man in his late sixties was quietly arrested, charged – and later convicted – for the systematic rape, abuse and imprisonment of his only daughter, ‘Katherine’, which spanned decades. He fathered four of her children.

Until recently, this shocking story had been buried under a complex legal web and Katherine’s insistence on silence so that she could rebuild her shattered life and protect her children. In Behind Closed Doors, Katherine speaks out and tells the story of how she survived – and how such degrading abuse went unnoticed for so long.

Now, a new epilogue reveals the evidence Katherine gave at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, detailing the betrayal she felt at having been ignored for so long.


‘If one person has shown faith in me, if one adult had really listened to me, my life would be very different, and my story may have had a fairy tale ending. My past has robbed my future, but I know I am not the only child who has ever suffered. Let this be a lesson to every adult. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors’.

Katherine X

Behind Closed Doors is a 2015 publication released by Simon & Schuster Australia, written by Katherine X and Sue Smethurst, a senior journalist from The Australian Women’s Weekly. In this biography and true crime memoir, Smethurst outlines the horrific life experiences of Katherine X, an Australian woman who suffered decades of abuse in every form, physically, emotionally and sexually, at the hands of her own father. She also shockingly gave birth to four of his children. To make matters worse, Katherine’s mother refused to take any action to help her, despite her clear knowledge of her husband’s abuse towards his daughter. Katherine’s voice is also included, via her first person point of view testimony. The case is utterly sickening and incredibly regrettable. Katherine tried numerous times to report the abuse to the authorities in Victoria to no avail. Sadly, this case was systematically swept under the carpet by authorities, including a hospital and a high volume of social workers. Although Katherine’s experiences are confronting, this is a must read. The case frustrated me and made me angry to no end! Thirty years after the abuse started, Katherine’s father was finally tried and sentenced to 22 years in prison. There is little information on Katherine’s story which I discovered through a media search. This is due to timing of the case (it coincided with the Black Saturday case), the legal issues surrounding it and the need to protection Katherine, as well as her children, from further scrutiny. Katherine X shows us the strength of the human spirit to endure in such horrific conditions. In bravely sharing her experiences, with the assistance of Sue Smethurst, Katherine hopes that, ‘If there’s one message I want to pass on it is that every child must be listened to. Children’s voices need to be heard, their stories acknowledged’.

Behind Closed Doors by Katherine X and Sue Smethurst was published on 1st May 2015 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

Behind Closed Doors is book #152 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

*Book ‘X’ of the a-z author challenge 2018



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