‘I was there with my mother … I remember the police come and took us from Mum, something about Dad didn’t go to court … When they come to the house there was no food or anything like that at the house, so they went away and then they came back and they said they had to take us.’
In the early 1970s, Benita and her siblings were sent to a children’s home run by the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland. Some of her brothers and sisters were only there a short while, before going to live with relatives. Benita was 11 when the children were sent to the home, and she remained there for three years.
‘The sisters at the orphanage were good. I loved them. Most of them … I used to really like Father Wilson. We used to go talking to him on the weekends when we had nothing to do … A girl and I … When it was boring, nothing to do, we used to go to talk to Father Wilson.’
One weekend, Benita went to see Father Wilson alone. ‘We were talking you know, talking about different things and what’s been happening with our day and what we’ve been doing and that, and then he asked me if I wanted to help him do something in his room and I thought he just wanted me to help him clean or something.’
When Benita went into Wilson’s room, he sexually abused her. ‘He wanted me to touch him. I can’t remember exactly what age I was. About 12, I think. Yeah, he wanted me to touch him down there.’
When Benita sat on Wilson’s lap, she had her clothes on, and ‘I didn’t think nothing of it. Well, I didn’t think he’d do anything like that. But yeah, he sort of had his arms around me, and wanted me to touch him and I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. He sort of had my hand and was rubbing it on him’.
The abuse only happened once because ‘I was too scared to go there anymore after that. I was frightened’. After the incident, Benita only went to visit Wilson if someone was with her, and the visits were brief.
Benita didn’t report the abuse. ‘I was too frightened to say anything. He told me to keep it to myself, “Don’t say anything to no one”, so I didn’t. I’ve never said anything till recently.’
Before she was placed into care Benita was sexually abused by her father, so when Wilson abused her, ‘it all came back. He didn’t do what my father did, but it was still hard enough, and I thought, “Hmm, you can’t trust men”’.
After three years in the children’s home, Benita was placed in a foster home and at first she ‘wouldn’t be around Mr Mason on his own, if I could get out of it and then if I was, I was very cautious … but he was really nice. He never touched me or tried to. He was nothing like Father Wilson or my father’.
One of the impacts of her abuse is that Benita has ‘always tried to be by myself if I could … [My husband] goes to visit people and I stay home. I don’t go out … At least I know I’m right … I’ve sort of been like that nearly all of my life’.
When Benita discovered that she wasn’t the only one abused by Wilson, it prompted her to come forward to the Royal Commission. ‘I thought, well, I may as well say something about it to ‘em as well. I heard about a lot of Catholic churches, and everything that the priests had done … to people, and I’d been tossing up whether to say anything.’
Benita was also encouraged to speak up by her daughter. ‘I’ve tried to deal with everything all myself. I shut it all out. I tried not to think about it … It’s just my daughter said, “You gotta talk about it and get rid of it … You can’t keep bottling it up”.’
Benita told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve got it out. I’ve told somebody. It wasn’t major, like he didn’t actually … but it’s still an assault. What he done, it’s still wrong’.