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Annalisa's story

Annalisa was sexually abused by her mother’s male friends from a very young age. She began running away in her early teens, and eventually, in the early 1980s, ended up in a Victorian children’s court where she was classed as an ‘uncontrollable child’ and placed on a supervision order. When the police told her they were driving her to a girls’ home, Annalisa thought she was being taken to the home of another girl. However, she said that ‘when I got out of the divvy wagon, I realised immediately this was not a home because there was barbed wire and everything else’.

The police officers escorted Annalisa into the detention centre, and things ‘started going down the wrong track’. After being made to have a cold shower, she had to remain naked while a gloved female warden checked her ‘back passage’ and breasts for contraband. ‘Then she decided that she wanted to check inside internally, and she was doing that, and I heard her moaning and groaning a little bit’.

After a terrified and sleepless night in her bare cell, Annalisa was made to shower again before breakfast and chores. ‘It wasn’t like a normal shower you have these days. It was a wall with shower nozzles on it, and there were no doors, none’. There were also no doors on the toilets. Annalisa said ‘I’m not making excuses why the wardens did what they did, but … it was put in their faces a lot. A lot of nakedness. A lot of things like that’.

Not long after her arrival, a male warden came into Annalisa’s cell. ‘I might have been young, but I wasn’t stupid’, she said. ‘And I’d already been abused before, so I realised to shut up, be quiet and let him do what he needs to do, and I can get back to what I was doing.’

Annalisa was scared after the sexual assault, but when she talked to other girls the next day, they told her to ‘just live with it. You’ll get this, you’ll get that’. She soon understood what they meant. ‘The guards, they used to give us gum and perfume and cigarettes for, you know, sex.’

Sex was ‘happening all the time’. ‘We could hear when someone was coming to open a cell door ... And the girls weren’t stupid, like they could hear whose cell was getting open … It was also happening all the time in the broom closet.’

Annalisa was sexually abused by a number of male guards, and one female one, and believes that ‘the adults looking after me, they obviously thought “well, you know, she’s been raped that many times, one more time won’t matter”’. She remembers their faces but not their names. ‘The more I think about it, my mind goes blank.’

Annalisa’s ‘little holiday’ in the detention centre opened her eyes to ‘a lot of things’. She said ‘some girls were getting VD in there. I was very, very fortunate that I didn’t get it ... And there was girls that would come in there normal and then go out pregnant. I mean that’s just so unfair’. Annalisa miscarried a pregnancy during her few months at the facility, but she can’t say for certain that the father was the first guard who’d raped her because she’d been raped by two other men just prior to her admission.

In the year that Annalisa got pregnant, she tried to kill herself by taking an overdose. She was ‘hurt’ to later read in her files that the institution notified her mother, but ‘didn’t even have the duty of care to see if I was all right’. ‘They paint me out as this young girl that wanted to love boys, and wanted to have sex with everybody … but that wasn’t really the truth. I had no real support from anybody ... That’s why I thought to myself “I’m better off dead”.’

After leaving the detention centre, Annalisa had a few foster placements ‘but nothing worked out’. She then experienced periods of homelessness, and later had children to a number of different partners. ‘I kept wanting to trust people’, she said. But ‘I always seemed to pick men that … love hurting women and children’.

Annalisa currently receives a disability support pension, and sees a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly. She doesn’t ‘cope with day to day life’, and sometimes feels angry with herself because of the time it is taking her to ‘move on’.

She also finds it very difficult to hold down a job. ‘It’s not that I can’t work. I’m not a cripple or anything. I can work, but then, depends on the flashbacks, and the bloody nightmares. Sometimes I won’t have a nightmare or flashback for ages, and then all of a sudden they’ll just come along. And that’s what used to happen when I used to get a job. I wouldn’t have anything for a long time, and I’m thinking “I’m getting on with my life” and then bang!’

Annalisa received a small compensation payment following the conviction of some of the men who raped her in her family home, but has not yet reported her institutional abusers to the police. She was ‘pretty happy’ when she was told that she was ‘entitled’ to speak to the Commission, but was also ‘pretty nervous because, all my life really, no one believed me at all, about anything’.

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