Carolann's story

For nearly three years from the age of 15 in the late 1960s Carolann was regularly raped and beaten at an infamous residential care institution in Sydney.

After ‘running away from home’ numerous times she spent 12 months on a supervision order in a suburban convent.

But on her release her stepfather refused to take her back as he feared her influence on his other children. So, without telling his wife, he approved her incarceration at the residential care facility that became her hell.

Her first six weeks included nightmares and scrubbing dormitory stairways until the deputy superintendent, Mr Jennings, asked how she liked the institution.

‘I said, “I don’t, sir”, and he said, “Well, you’re not here to like it”, and he punched me in the face.’

Thereafter Mr Jennings gave Carolann ‘my first taste of bashing’ when she got a drink of water in the laundry without asking first.

‘He kicked me in the face. He kicked me everywhere once he got me down on the floor. Things seemed to escalate from there', Carolann said.

She was taken to the ‘dungeon’ room where all she could picture was ‘spiders’.

‘Later on Mr Jennings and Mr Greenslade [his boss] came down and I was raped and I was sodomised and they left me there in the dungeon for the whole day. I was absolutely terrified and I’d been vomiting all day because I was that scared.’

Walking towards the isolation room afterwards, Carolann said she was tripped up by Mr Jennings and hit across the back of the head by a third staff member, Mr Freeman, who bashed her on occasions but never raped her.

‘I said, “What have I done? Why did I deserve to be raped?”’

It was Mr Greenslade, the superintendent, who replied, she said.

‘You’re here, little girl, for our pleasure, not yours.’

Carolann estimates she was raped more than ‘a dozen’ times by Mr Jennings and Mr Greenslade.

But the worst incident of her time at the facility was when she was held down and pack raped for at least 45 minutes by four girls in a dormitory. They used a toilet brush, a bottle and a hair brush – items that could only have been smuggled in with help from the staff.

‘It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever experienced … and I’ve experienced some horrible things', Carolann said, admitting she had never before told anyone this aspect of her time at the facility.

The raping continued. ‘They [Jennings and Greenslade] told me if I accepted it and let them do what they liked that it would stop. So I didn’t fight.’

The men did back off, with the exception of the time the pair wanted to take photos of Carolann in the dungeon. She was ‘knocked out’ when she refused to undress – ‘it’s not up to what you want, it’s up to what we want’, she was told – and thinks she was probably raped while unconscious.

When her mother discovered her husband’s treachery, she took time off from her three jobs to see her daughter. Her mother’s attempts to remove Carolann from the facility also failed.

During one visit Carolann recalled that ‘all she did was cry the whole time and apologise to me for trusting my stepfather’.

‘I got bashed or I got raped … the whole time I was in there’, Carolann said. ‘I don’t know to this day why they picked me. If I was badly bruised they used to put me in isolation until the bruises faded and they told me if anybody asked me what the bruises were on me face I was to tell them that I’d been bashed – I’d got into a fight with a couple of girls.’

One method of control by her abusers was to ‘really frighten me by telling me I was going to [a rural annexe of the facility]’. Carolann had seen girls return from the annexe totally submissive, ‘like zombies’.

‘I used to be so scared [of going there, although she never did] I couldn’t eat and all I did was shake. The men thought it was a great joke.’

Carolann ‘never, ever told a doctor’ about the rapes because she felt ashamed.

‘Every time they asked me what was the matter with me – because I attempted suicide a couple of times – I’d just say I was depressed. They used to try and try and try to make me talk and I just wouldn’t because I felt nothing but shame.

‘For years I thought it was my fault because I should have fought harder to get away from the girls and I keep thinking even to this day that I should have told somebody – but there was nobody to tell. I couldn’t tell me mum, because I’d caused her enough pain from running away from home all the time.’

Despite everything, ‘I came through it’, said Carolann. ‘I did end up having a nervous breakdown and ended up in a lot of psychiatric centres. I lost my husband and my kids. My son still doesn’t talk to me because he thinks I’m a nut – or “a psycho”, he calls me.’

In her 60s now, Carolann, a grandmother, can’t sleep without a night light and wakes ‘every single night’ with nightmares. She suffers chronic depression and hasn’t ‘had a sex life for 40 years’, which she attributes to her incarceration ‘and the men that were there’.

She won’t be suicidal again, she maintains, because she has ‘wasted too much time’ in psychiatric centres, one of which was next door to the institution where it all happened.

Carolann only recently confided some details to her daughter who regularly tries to disabuse her mother of any shame. No report has been made to police, nor has she considered compensation.

‘Thank you for listening', Carolann told the Royal Commission.

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