Alisha Lee's story

After Alisha’s parents separated her mum spent most of her time partying, and Alisha was often left to care for her younger siblings all night. In the late 1990s, when Alisha was around seven years old, she approached a family friend and asked her to care for them.

‘I went to a person I knew really well, her name was Barbara, she was lovely. And I said, can I live with you? Because Mummy can’t look after us anymore. And she said, yeah that’s fine.’

The children lived with Barbara for a while, ‘and then we all had this big meeting, about who would take us, we had this court date ... The only person that turned up was Barbara. My nan, my aunties, no one turned up’. Her mum didn’t attend either – ‘really sad, actually’.

At this meeting the authorities gave Barbara foster care of Alisha and her siblings. She also had kids of her own, including Jeremy, who was in his mid to late teens. ‘He was nice, he was a loving brother. I loved him with all my heart. But then he just started doing stuff to me that I didn’t understand.’

Jeremy sexually abused Alisha many times, including touching and fondling her. This abuse continued for around three years. ‘It happened a lot. Until Emma [his sister] caught him one night doing it to me.’

Alisha then told Barbara about the abuse, and Emma confirmed what she had seen. Barbara believed them and reported her son to police, and Alisha had to speak to them too. ‘I had to tell the police. That was hard.’

Jeremy was charged and pleaded guilty to sexual offences against Alisha, and received a custodial sentence. ‘And then I blamed myself ... He shouldn’t have gone there – he shouldn’t have gone to jail. I didn’t want him to go to jail. Because even though he did what was not right, I loved him as my brother. And no-one would want a brother in jail.’

Barbara let Jeremy back into the house after he was released, so Alisha was removed from her care. Her siblings stayed there though, ‘which I was very angry about, the fact that they stayed there while he was in the house. They were still so little. I was worried that he was going to touch them’.

At 13 Alisha was sent to live with foster parents Tony and Jane, who also had children of their own. Shortly after she moved in, Tony began sexually assaulting her. This included raping her and forcing her to perform oral sex. ‘It wasn’t love, it wasn’t affectionate, it wasn’t what Jeremy did to me. It was much worse ... He threatened if I told anybody he’d slit my throat ... It wasn’t just sexual abuse, it was bashing, pushing me into cupboards.’ Jane also physically assaulted Alisha.

This abuse ended when one of the couple’s children told Alisha’s case worker that ‘Daddy’s belting Alisha up’, and she was removed from their care. She has since learned that Tony had been incarcerated for domestic violence against Jane before she moved in with the family, and thinks the authorities should have known not to place her there.

Alisha spoke to police at the time, but was too distressed to make a complete statement about what Tony had done, so he just received a ‘slap on the hand’. ‘They didn’t want me to testify because I was a mess at that time.’ She intends to speak with police again now to provide a more detailed report. ‘He belongs to be locked up. And so does that woman.’

Her last foster placement was okay, and once she was released from care she tried living with her mum again. This did not work out, and she became homeless for a while. She has since received her welfare records, and learned more about her mother. ‘When I read my files I was like, why did I give her another chance? She does not deserve another chance. When I look at her it makes me sick.’

Although Alisha is able to function socially, such as maintaining her relationship, and regular volunteer and paid work, she finds it very hard to be alone. She has suicidal thoughts and has made several attempts to end her life, but thinking of her siblings and stepchildren stops her from trying again.

Alisha told the Commissioner she has had some counselling about the sexual abuse but it ‘didn’t really help’. ‘I’m still on that rollercoaster, and I don’t know how long I’ll be on that rollercoaster for. I could be on that rollercoaster the rest of my life.’

She feels that if Tony was convicted and sent to prison for what he did to her, and if she knew that the department was now properly investigating foster carers before letting them look after kids, ‘then I might just slowly get off that rollercoaster’.

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