Astrid grew up in the United Kingdom before moving to Western Australia in the mid-1970s. She told the Commissioner that she has Aboriginal heritage and was intrigued by the culture. When she was in her mid-30s, she and her partner fostered an 18-month-old girl.
Jessica, Astrid’s foster daughter, is also Aboriginal. Astrid said that she found blood in Jessica’s nappy as soon as she took her in. She also noted that Jessica appeared unwell and had bruises on her body. This concerned her as she believed it was sexual abuse, so she reported Jessica’s condition to the welfare office. No action was taken.
Astrid took extra care of Jessica as she grew up. She said Jessica was musically and artistically talented when she was a child but she was bullied severely when she was a teenager, Astrid thinks because of her race. Jessica became more reserved as she progressed through her teenage years.
When Jessica was 17, she was raped by a family friend, Gordon Lopes. Astrid was told that Lopes offered Jessica and her other friend beer before taking them for a ride in his car. Jessica told Astrid about the rape immediately and they reported Lopes to the police. The case was taken to court, but Lopes was not convicted. This upset them both significantly.
After the trial, Jessica’s attitude changed completely. She ran away from school and counselling sessions regularly. She started drinking heavily and using drugs. Astrid noticed marks on Jessica’s body and believes she was self-harming. She also threatened to take her own life.
Astrid believes that Jessica’s response to the rape was influenced by her sexual abuse as a baby as well as the bullying she experienced as a child.
Jessica left Astrid’s home in the late 1990s as an adult and she never returned. Astrid said that Jessica, who is now in her 40s, calls her sometimes for ‘check-ups’ and their last conversation was pleasant. But Astrid is stressed because she’s not sure where Jessica is living now and she worries about her.