Because her mum had been physically and sexually abusing her, Anika ran away from home in her early teens, and stayed with one of the leaders of her church’s youth group. After she had disclosed the abuse, her church contacted the Department of Community Services.
In the early 1990s Anika became a ward of the state and was placed in a series of foster homes. In one placement, the foster father groped and kissed her, so she ran away. Despite moving a half-a-dozen times, Anika kept going to her church and youth group.
In her mid-teens, Anika was placed in a government-run refuge near Sydney where she met a youth worker, Craig Dawkins, who upset her with his aggressive questioning of her faith in God, and her history of sexual abuse.
In a written statement she submitted to the Royal Commission, Anika described how Craig informed her church about her sexual relationship with another resident. The church then told her not to return. Anika wrote, ‘I was absolutely devastated, and it was so painful that I pushed this emotion deep inside me because the church had become the family that I didn’t have’.
Having made Anika feel ‘isolated and alone’, Craig started to favour her by giving her special food and privileges, and sticking up for her in front of the other workers. ‘I know they seem really small, but when you’re living in that situation, those things are big.’
One night, when Anika and her friend Peter were the only residents in the refuge, they became unable to move after Craig had given them soft drinks. Craig then had sexual intercourse with Anika in the worker’s bedroom, and acted as if nothing had happened when she woke up ‘dazed and confused’.
A similar incident occurred at Christmas, only this time it also involved Craig raping Peter, and photographing the two friends naked, in different sexual positions. Anika remembers that she could not move or feel her body, and could only groan instead of scream.
After an attempt to live independently, Anika asked Craig to let her back into the refuge. When her then boyfriend started to visit, Craig became jealous and possessive. He had a tantrum and kicked the boyfriend out.
Craig then drugged and raped her, violated her body with objects, and used faeces to humiliate her. He threatened to kill her and everyone she loved. When he asked, ‘Who else do I need to kill to make you not tell? … Who else do you love?’ Anika diffused the situation by saying ‘I love you’.
After this, Anika ‘wanted to get as close as I could to him because that way he may not want to be sexually violent and abusive to me’. She started to behave as if they were a couple, but when she asked for comfort, he told her ‘the predator and the victim can’t comfort each other’.
When residents or workers asked if Craig had raped her, she denied it. ‘I don’t know why I denied everything … I just know I was extremely anxious and distraught.’
From this time onwards, Anika’s mind ‘buried all the bad stuff’. ‘I knew the abuse was happening to me. I know I felt powerless to stop it. But … when I was just me with me, I couldn’t recall the abuse events … almost like one part of me would not let me remember.’
In her late teens, Anika was living in a flat and there, Craig would drug and rape her, cover her in excrement, encourage her to kill herself, and violently interrogate her plans to report him.
Anika told the Commissioner, ‘I had gone from working full-time … making my way to and from work each day, holding down a job, having friends, looking after myself and my apartment, to being someone who could barely function’.
After praying, she said it was like God told her to see her friend Peter, who took her in and cared for her and helped her to pick up the pieces. She re-registered with Centrelink, did a vocational course, and found an ‘amazing counsellor’ she still sees today.
When Craig found Anika and Peter and threatened to inject them with ‘bubonic plague’, Anika was finally able to fight back.
Anika’s memories resurfaced in her late 20s, but she initially thought this was a product of the psychosis she had developed. She became suicidal, developed mental health issues, and spent time in a psychiatric ward. Eventually, a threatening email from Craig convinced her that she had not imagined the abuse.
Now in her 30s, Anika said that ‘I feel like a damaged person … I don’t feel normal in any way … I just feel like it’s going to always be this endless process to try and stay centred and live a healthy happy life because … he really stripped me of my confidence and my self-esteem and my self-worth … It’s taken years and years and years and years to rebuild that, and I still don’t feel like I’m where I want to be in life … I feel like I’m always behind because I struggle so much’.
Anika told the Commissioner, ‘In sharing my story what I hope is to have validation, to have peace and understanding and to have a sense of making sense of my story. I hope for justice and I do believe that for my sense of safety and for the safety of others that this perpetrator needs to be charged’.
She also believes that without her ‘angel’ Peter, she doesn’t think she would be here today.