When Cassie was little, her mother spent most of her time partying with her boyfriend. Often left alone, Cassie began going out too, hanging out with people she met on the streets of Brisbane.
During the mid-1990s she was molested by two men, and raped by someone she considered a friend. ‘I went back to my mum's and waited there for her to come home. I wanted to charge him with rape and I wanted her support at the police station.
‘I was only 12 years of age when it happened but she never came, so I took off again … I thought if I had of gone to the police station after the rape no one would listen to me. This is when I feel I first lost my voice.’
Cassie experienced another rape, and began using alcohol and other drugs. She also ‘started to assault anyone that I thought was normal such as someone who had a home, going to school … These people looked happy and I wasn't. I had no one to turn to and they had someone. In my mind I thought they were perfect and lucky because they had not been touched like me, causing me to hold so much hate and anger’.
She was sent to a youth detention centre, returning numerous times over the next few years. ‘The police and Family Services and my family wanted me to stop doing what I had been doing, but no one stopped to ask me why I was doing what I was doing. There was no support, and it was like I had created these people who hated me and judged me.’
The police were usually rude and aggressive in their dealings with Cassie. She was often charged and without legal support, she was sent straight to the detention centre.
Whenever she entered the centre she was strip searched, and made to walk naked to the shower area. As she washed, staff ‘would make rude jokes and poke fun at my body. They would be staring at my body and I did not like it, they made me feel really uncomfortable’.
The girls dreaded seeing the male doctor – ‘an absolute pervert’ – for check-ups. ‘He always made sure he touched my breast. He was not checking my chest, he was feeling my breast. He knew he could do it and he knew he could get away with it.’ Cassie told staff about this abuse, but they didn’t do anything.
After having an argument with a fellow inmate, Cassie was placed in an isolation room, which had cameras installed. A male warden strip searched her. ‘I became hysterical because I did not want him taking my clothes off … I ended up lying curled up on the floor in a ball trying to hide my body.’
Another male warden gave Cassie special treatment, knowing she was ‘an emotional mess’. She saw him in the community one time when she was released, and accepted his offer of a ride, as ‘he was a familiar person in my life’.
She went to his house, and ‘I felt like I was forced to have sex with him. I had no one on the outside that I could turn to and he took advantage of that. I wanted someone I could trust, someone to look out for me but instead I was taken advantage of by him’.
Cassie became pregnant at 15, and was made to have an abortion. She tried to escape from the clinic, but was held down and sedated. The trauma from the abortion still affects her today.
Cassie didn’t have any adults she could talk to at the centre. She rarely saw her Child Safety caseworkers, other than in court. She believes the abuse may have been curtailed if there were ‘more trusting people around, or someone who came in on a regular basis monitoring us and our wellbeing. I feel that if someone was actually looking out for us kids, what was happening might have been uncovered sooner’.
She told her mother about the way she was treated, but she didn’t try to help, and ‘even on one occasion asked the judge to keep me in there’. An outside worker once came to the centre, asking inmates if anything was going on there – and ‘the staff were a bit wary of her’. This worker was Indigenous, like Cassie, and Cassie told her some stuff that had happened. She never saw her again.
Cassie had a breakdown in her 20s, and contemplated suicide. She was initially reluctant to get counselling – fearing a therapist would ‘psychoanalyse me and say something is wrong with me, pushing the blame back onto me’. She now sees a psychologist about her anxiety and depression.
Her children have also been impacted upon by her trauma. ‘I have had to figure out all the bullshit that has happened to me on my own, and how to be a good parent. I realised I did not want my children to have to put up with my mess. I vowed I would never want and or let my children go into the system, the same system that failed me.’
Cassie hasn’t applied for compensation, or sought legal representation, as she didn’t feel strong enough to tell her story before. ‘I feel now this is my closure by telling my story to the Royal Commission, and I am ready to move on and for my healing time.’ She doesn’t trust police, so has not reported the abuse to them.
Cassie is studying community services, so she can help other people. She would like kids who have been in trouble with the law to get more support, and be made to feel safe. ‘There should be services there to help them on the outside to keep them from reoffending, and out of detention centres … I believe we can help youth to have a better chance at life.’