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Aurora's story

Aurora’s stepfather was the first man to sexually abuse her.

‘He wouldn’t leave me alone. And I sort of indicated to my mother that I didn’t want him coming into the bathroom, “Oh, he’s just trying to be a father figure” ... He was always trying to maul me. I said I’d kill him.’

Aurora was an early developer, ‘getting shape’ from when she was 10 years old. ‘And I was becoming more conscious of it, and my stepfather was calling me all sorts of names.’

He was also an extremely violent figure, particularly against her mother. One time, he tied a rope around her mother’s throat and dragged her across the floor. Another time he tried to cut off her fingers.

She would try to defend her mother against him. ‘My mother didn’t have the guts or the courage to say anything’ to others about the abuse, and began drinking heavily.

Aurora had trouble concentrating at school, always worried her mother would be dead when she got home. One day she had forgotten her sports uniform, and a teacher instructed her to just wear her underwear for the lesson.

She refused, knowing there could be men working on the grounds, and not wanting them to see her undressed. The teacher insisted and Aurora hit her. She did not return to school after this incident.

Aurora left home in the early 1960s when she was 14. She was raped whilst living on the streets, leading to medical problems.

Finally she was placed into state care and made a ward. At the court hearing her mother said she was ‘uncontrollable’. Feeling betrayed after years of defending her mother, Aurora attacked her in the courtroom.

The girls’ home she was placed in was to become notorious for the physical and sexual violence that occurred there.

Aurora was subjected to forceful internal examinations at the home, in full view of the guards. ‘Even when you were having a shower, you’d have guards walking through. And they’d be having a bit of a perve.’

The staff would call the girls sluts, boasting ‘they could do as they pleased, and we would do what they want’.

Superintendent Clarence Grainger – ‘a fat, pompous pig’ – took an immediate dislike to Aurora’s ‘attitude’. ‘He didn’t like women at all. We were just trash.’

Grainger reminded her of her stepfather, and told her he could do anything he liked to her. ‘I said, “Oh yeah? You try it buster, you’ll have to kill me because that’s not going to happen”.’

For this, she was sent to the ‘dungeon’ for three days. Grainger escorted her there. ‘I don’t know whether he purposely groped me on the breast, or whether he accidently brushed it. I don’t know. And I told him to keep his filthy hands off me.’

There was a pail on the ground, and she threw this at Grainger. ‘So he got me by the hair, and he slammed me up against the wall, and as I went to get up, he bashed me again.’ When she fell on the ground, he kicked her, leaving a permanent mark.

‘The minute I got out of the girls’ home I went home [to her family], but I left again.’ Aurora went straight into a relationship with yet another violent man. He attempted to suffocate her just before they were married, and assaulted her while she was pregnant with her daughter.

When she tried to leave the marriage, her mother-in-law threatened to report her to the Department of Community Services, telling her that girls from that home would not be credible with child protection. Fearing she would lose her kids, she stayed, and they were married for two decades.

Aurora’s brother killed her stepfather when she was in her 20s, and her mother died the next year. She believes that her mother’s death, from a cerebral haemorrhage, was the long-term result of injuries caused by her stepfather.

Her childhood experiences continue to impact Aurora’s life in numerous ways. She left a job because of the sexual advances of a male employee, which were very triggering. Her current partner cannot understand why she won’t get undressed with the light on, or why she won’t let him join her in the bathroom.

Aurora has recently joined a support group for people who had been in care as children, and has obtained her ward file. She’d like to find her biological father, whom she has never met, to know more about where she came from. She has never sought any compensation or other redress regarding her abuse at the girls’ home, but is now considering her legal options.

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