When the doctor had finished sexually abusing Avaline, ‘I was thrown a packet of smokes to say nothing’.
Avaline had run away a number of times in the mid-1940s. When she was 15, now a ward of the state, she ended up at a government-run girls’ home in Sydney’s west. She lived at the home for the next three and a half years, and the sexual abuse started about a year in.
The grey-haired doctor abused her in numerous ways, including ‘rubbing his penis on me, penetration, touching inappropriately across my body and inside the vagina’.
Avaline was abused by another man as well who came into her room one night, made her strip, and fondled her breasts. She couldn’t see much of him in the dark, and never found out his identity.
She knew she wasn’t the only one being abused, as the girls would discuss their experiences between themselves. ‘The other girls looked on me to protect them, and I couldn’t do that.’
They did not disclose the abuse to any workers at the home because they would be ‘put in punishment’ if they did so. Staff used to tell them ‘that we were scum’ and the girls were forced to do hard manual chores. They agreed they would not tell anyone once they got out of the home either as they believed this would cause them social stigma, so Avaline did not speak of it for many years.
Avaline told the Commissioner the abuse had affected her whole life. After she left the home she could not go to work ‘as I wouldn’t leave the house’. She has been unable to see doctors for treatment over the years, and even when she was pregnant, avoided them until she went into labour. Her faith has helped her get through – ‘God looks after you’.
Recently Avaline saw a television program about child sexual abuse, and this prompted her to tell her daughter and son-in-law about her experiences in the home. They have been very supportive, and her daughter accompanied her when she met with the Royal Commission.