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Annabella's story

Annabella was physically and mentally abused by her mother, who broke one of her bones while she was still a baby. She and her siblings grew up surrounded by ‘many men’ who came to see their mother. Most of them were alcoholic.

When Annabella was in primary school, her mother and new stepfather moved the family to rural Victoria. The stepfather sexually assaulted Annabella for the next few years.

After the abuse started, Annabella became withdrawn at home and at school, and wore jumpers and jeans, even in the heat, in an attempt to stop her stepfather from touching her. She was unable to concentrate in school, and often placed her head on the desk because she was not able to participate. She couldn’t tell anyone what was happening.

In the early 1980s, as Annabella reached her teens, the family moved to rural Queensland. One night, her stepfather came home drunk. He went into her bedroom and tried to molest her, but she resisted and he walked away. Unable to keep it a secret any longer, Annabella told one of her stepfather’s friends about the abuse.

‘He went and told my mother, and my mother was screaming at me that I was a liar trying to break up their marriage. I said I was going to the police, so my mother tied me up and she went somewhere until the next day.’

When her mother returned, she asked if Annabella would like to come shopping with her. Annabella was excited because her mother never did anything with her. However, her mother took her to the children’s court and made her a ward of the state. She was handed to authorities and placed in a foster home.

Over the next year, Annabella was placed with four different foster families. At one placement, the foster father tried to sexually assault her while she was sleeping. She told him that she needed to go to the bathroom, then ran away from the house and didn’t return. Annabella reported him to her Department of Community Services worker, but nothing was done.

When Annabella was made a ward of the state, her formal education came to an end. She ‘stopped speaking’ and would often run away from places because it was just easier. She also had no support from her social workers or family. No one bothered to check up on her, or to discover her whereabouts when she fled to Victoria in her mid teens. She said that she has always felt alone.

‘If I had someone backing me up, I could’ve had the potential to really do something good with myself. I can’t get a decent job.’

Annabella has spent much of her life moving in and out of foster homes and housing commission accommodation. She has only ever worked in temporary jobs, and feels that she lost her potential to establish a career or find stable employment. An accident she had in her late 20s left her with injuries that still affect her, and she is currently on a disability support pension.

Annabella became an overprotective parent which caused problems with her children. She is terribly upset that she is estranged from some of her family, and experiences strained relationships with her siblings due to the way her mother treated her. She is easily overwhelmed, and often has a hard time connecting to people. She deals with conflict by running away.

‘I’ve been single for 11 years. I don’t know how to have a relationship. I don’t trust anyone. I live at home with my little dog and that’s it.’

In the early 2000s, Annabella’s sister told her that she too had been abused by their stepfather. Annabella then confronted her mother, but was upset by her mother’s lack of empathy, and appalled to hear that she knew it had been happening.

Annabella has never reported her stepfather to the police, taken any civil action against the government, or been involved in any redress schemes.

‘Life has been a constant struggle for me even though I have never really told anyone. I didn’t want anyone to pity me or treat me any differently.’

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