In the late 1960s, when Bonnie was around seven years old, her mother left her father. ‘My mum was a good mum, she was just under a lot of stress.’
The children were split up, and placed with other families. ‘I wasn’t allowed to have any contact with my own family. We weren’t allowed to write to each other, and that was the worst thing of all.’ These placements were arranged by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, but ‘I don’t know whether it was under the state or not’.
Bonnie went to live with the Morgan family in regional Queensland. Their two teenage sons, Ben and Chris, would have sex with each other, and sexually abused Bonnie and their little brother, Toby.
Sometimes Chris raped Bonnie immediately after raping Toby, which caused her complex feelings towards the younger boy. ‘I sort of got this absolute hate for Toby, irrational, it’s not his fault or anything, but it’s because his faeces was in me ... And it just made me feel really, really dirty. I absolutely took a hate against him, I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me.’
This feeling of dirtiness continued to haunt her long after the abuse ended. Until very recently, ‘I’d be in the shower, and I’d scrub myself ... everything had to be sterile, and I realised the reasons why that is. It’s all about cleaning, and [I’d] douche myself inside and out. Because it never went away’.
Although Bonnie treated Toby badly, he still came to her defence when Chris hung her over the side of a boat one day, and so ‘Chris did the same to him. That made me feel pretty poor’. Chris threatened to murder Bonnie’s family if she ever disclosed the abuse.
Despite the threats from Chris, Bonnie decided to disclose the abuse to her foster mother, and convinced Toby to join her. Mrs Morgan ‘told me that I wasn’t to speak of this, never to tell anyone about it’. When Mr Morgan came home and found out, he broke Chris’ collarbone. ‘Not for touching me, but for him, for touching Toby. And I knew exactly what I was there for.’
Bonnie believes her foster parents used her to try and protect Toby. ‘I knew that they only had me there so that I would be there for their two boys, to stop them raping their own child ... I was drugged, simple as that... I was given sleeping tablets. I was there to prevent Toby from being further raped.’
Bonnie often contemplated taking her own life during her time with the Morgans. ‘All that ever stopped me was the fact that I had a family [of her own]’, although at that stage she could not see them.
Her schooling suffered, and other kids assumed she was ‘retarded’ or using drugs. ‘My whole life, I was like a zombie. I’m talking about clouds, you’re in this thing and like you couldn’t hear properly. Yes, like a daze. A lot of people can’t understand this.’
She had trouble remembering things she was told, and often didn’t even recall what day it was. ‘It was like this continual blur.’ Her teachers often asked her how she was, but the fear of repercussions from Chris and Ben stopped her from disclosing the abuse.
Bonnie was visited by workers from the Department of Children’s Services. She was never allowed to speak to these workers alone, so could not report the abuse.
When Bonnie was around 11 years old she went to live in a receiving home, which she loved. She wanted to tell the nurses, and another girl’s case worker, about Chris and Ben, but rules around who the children could talk to prevented this.
Bonnie would be sent to other foster homes for periods of time, which frightened her. ‘I knew on the outside world all you got was raped and abused.’ She was not sexually assaulted again, but experienced physical and emotional abuse in these placements.
From the age of 16, Bonnie has spoken freely about the abuse, including telling her mum and her mum’s friends. Her mum ‘wrote letters all over the place, telling them [authorities] ... It was really hard, talking to Mum about that ... She felt angry at herself’.
She has always been upfront with her partners about her experiences. When they would ask her about things she had said in her sleep, or her sleepwalking, ‘I’d say well, sexual abuse, that’s what happens to you’.
Bonnie told the Commissioner that she sometimes ‘become involved with the wrong type of men, who just suppress you, use you, abuse you ... People can just walk all over you, and rip you off’.
When Bonnie’s kids were younger, she was over protective. She finds it hard to leave the house except for essential tasks, and doesn’t like being around many people. Her concerns around security have led her to have cameras installed all around the house.
When a state redress scheme came up, Bonnie chose not to apply. She did not feel comfortable speaking with the man who contacted her, and believed that the amount being offered was not nearly enough to compensate for what she had gone through.
An apology does not hold much interest for her. ‘It’s empty. What does an apology mean? I don’t care about an apology. I want the system changed.’
Bonnie recently made a report to police, and the investigation is ongoing. She found doing this a harrowing experience, as it triggered a lot of memories she had tried to suppress.
Bonnie’s younger brother grew up thinking he was an only child, and was abused in care. He eventually died by suicide. Though she didn’t spend much of her childhood with her parents, she is grateful they had those early years together. ‘I was brought up with strong grounding from my parents, so I was able to survive this.’
Bonnie recommended there be greater emphasis placed on keeping families together, noting that even now ‘decent people that just need a little bit of help’ are scared to ask for assistance for fear their kids will be removed.
She now belongs to a faith which places emphasis on volunteering and helping others, and finds solace in this. ‘Sometimes the only satisfaction I get from everything that’s happened to me is that I am an understanding person. I do community service work, I help people ... And I can talk to people, and understand what they are going through.’