One of Catriona’s earliest memories is trying to hide from men coming into her room. She was sexually abused from a very young age.
When Catriona was two years old, in the mid-1970s, she was given to a young couple and taken interstate to live in South Australia. ‘Apparently my mother didn’t want me’, she said. The couple who took her were both alcoholics and would often have people over to the house to drink. When they got drunk, the men would come looking for Catriona.
She was subjected to terrible physical abuse, too. Catriona remembered being tied up, bashed and stomped, receiving injuries which still affect her today.
Catriona turned for help to the only other adult she knew, a teacher. There was a cursory investigation of the family, and the abuse continued.
At the age of seven Catriona went into hospital after being raped. She was taken away from the couple and made a ward of the state, living in different foster homes for a few years.
Catriona was eventually placed with another couple and their son, Trevor. He began sexually abusing her soon after she moved in, warning Catriona, ‘If you tell anyone they’re not going to believe you anyway'.
When Catriona did tell Trevor’s mother about the abuse, the woman said ‘it was okay because we weren’t related and he loved me’. Catriona was now 13 years old.
She also once tried to talk to a welfare worker who came to the house, but was stopped by her foster mother. After that, Catriona never saw a welfare worker again.
The sexual abuse only stopped when Catriona left the foster home in her mid-teens. She ended up living in the outback, often self-medicating to dull the physical and emotional pain.
In the last 10 years Catriona’s life has improved. She became a mother, started counselling and is dealing with her dependence on drugs and alcohol. Catriona also considered reporting the abuse to the police but decided she wasn’t ready to face that yet.
After talking with the Commissioner Catriona expressed interest in pursuing compensation, for the sake of her children.
‘Nobody’s going to take away what’s happened but at least it’ll never happen to my kids’, she said.
Catriona still finds it extremely hard to talk about the abuse she suffered. When asked why she decided to talk to the Royal Commission she said, ‘Just to see how strong I can be, I guess. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point.
‘I’m pretty strong right now with it all. It gets easier.’