‘I’ve waited a long time to say what I want to say’, Amelia told the Commissioner. ‘So you might need to shut me up.'
Born in Victoria in the early 1960s, Amelia spent most of her childhood in state care where she was abused many times by many different people. Over and over again she tried to report the abuse, and over and over again she was ignored, threatened or labelled a liar.
The first person she ever reached out to was a social worker. Amelia was six at the time and still living in her mother’s care. She told the social worker that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her. The social worker reported this to Amelia’s mother who simultaneously denied the abuse and blamed Amelia for it. Amelia said, ‘That created the threat in her mind that I’m her competition’.
A short while later Amelia’s mother marched her down to the police station and handed her over to the care of the state. Amelia spent the next few months in a processing centre for children. At night she was sexually abused by one of the staff. ‘He would say and do some really rude, crude things and then make you feel like no one’s going to believe you if you ever tell anyone so don’t try, because you’re a ward, you’re a home kid.’
Amelia ignored the man’s advice. When she was moved to another children’s home, and sexually abused by a gang of boys there, she quickly reported them to the staff. The staff said, ‘That couldn’t possibly happen here. You’ve got to be mistaken. Our boys wouldn’t do that to our girls’.
After that, Amelia fell victim to what she described as the worst of all the abuse. One of the staff members had a husband who would sneak into the dormitory at night, targeting Amelia and one other girl. They never knew who he was going to pick. ‘We would cringe and hope that the footsteps would go past our bed to the other bed … God forgive me, I used to sigh with relief when he walked to her bed instead of mine.’
On the nights when Amelia was the chosen victim, the man would take her into another room, tie her to a bedframe and violently abuse her. One time he kept her in the room for two days. When she finally got out, she reported her abuser to the staff. They did not believe her, despite the obvious bruising on her hands and face, so she told a social worker. The social worker asked her mother about it. Her mother responded, ‘She’s a habitual liar, don’t listen to her’ and that was the end of that.
At 15, Amelia moved to a new home where the woman in charge treated her kindly. Unfortunately, Amelia lacked the skills to manage her own behaviour and make the most of a good opportunity. Coming home from school one day on the bus she ‘made a scene’. When the woman found out, she said that she didn’t want a ‘disruptive force’ at the home, and sent Amelia back to where she’d come from.
Once again, Amelia found herself curled up in bed every night hoping the man would pass her by. At 16 she was released into her mother’s care, but time apart had not improved the relationship. Amelia ran away many times and eventually her mum handed her over to the police.
Though Amelia had committed no crimes, she and several other girls were put into a home for ‘killers and bank robbers’. Here she witnessed and suffered brutal sexual abuse perpetrated by the other girls. Once again she tried to report it and once again she was punished and labelled a liar.
Sometimes she sought refuge in the Catholic room at the home. This was a good plan until the priest discovered she was not Catholic and started sexually abusing her. She reported him too, and was told she was talking ‘bullshit’.
By the time she left the home at 16, Amelia had come to accept that no one was ever going to believe her. When she got a job as a nanny, and the man of the house started to sexually abuse her, she didn’t report him. Instead she told the social worker simply that she wasn’t happy with the placement and would like to move elsewhere. For once, the authorities listened, and she was moved.
Since then Amelia has stumbled through a series of disastrous relationships with violent men, while still managing to raise three ‘beautiful kids’. A few years ago she started experiencing crippling flashbacks and sought psychological help. She told her story to the psychologist and felt for the first time how ‘freeing’ it was to be heard and believed.
‘I have this cart, this wagon that has all these boxes of shit and I’ve been carrying it around for so long and the boxes are so big that I was getting pulled under by it. And slowly, little by little, we’ve whittled it down to little boxes now. I still have my wagon but it’s not as traumatic. It’s easier to deal with.’