Claudia was born to teenage parents in the early 1980s, and her mum had been in and out of care as a child. Somehow Claudia came to live with another family when she was three years old, though it is unclear whether this was a formal arrangement. Her name was changed around this time, meaning her biological parents could not locate her.
After a couple of years she was removed from this first placement. ‘Apparently I was being molested in that house ... I don’t remember, but it’s written in my file ... I actually went back down to Brisbane when I was 18 and went through my files, but since then I haven’t been able to have my hands on them for some reason. They’ve been placed in a lockdown or something.’ She has been trying to access these records recently, but was told she was not entitled to have them.
Claudia was then placed in foster care with another family on the outskirts of Brisbane, who had a young adult son, Micky, still at home. Micky would have sex with his 13-year-old sister in the bed next to Claudia’s. ‘I didn’t exactly know back then what they were doing. And it was her that actually said it was okay. And then it just went on from there.’
Micky began sexually abusing Claudia too. Staff at Claudia’s school noticed her behaving in a ‘pretty promiscuous’ way, ‘or that I knew a little bit more than I should have known for a kid that age, so I’ve obviously known about sexual things’.
After school staff became suspicious, they contacted police and a social worker. ‘The next minute I was getting interviewed. I remember having to draw diagrams of what he was doing ... I was out of that house before I knew it.’
Micky was charged with child sex offences and received a custodial sentence. ‘When he went to jail, when he went to court – it’s written in my files – that he stated that I asked for it.’
Claudia felt bad for the rest of the family. ‘The mother was unaware. I remember going back down [to see them] when I was 18 to make peace with it all ... ‘cause as a little girl I felt that I’d destroyed somebody’s family, not really knowing ... I think I knew it wasn’t my fault, I knew I wasn’t to blame, but I don’t know ... It kind of felt like I’d destroyed a family.’
Some books her social worker gave her helped her understand the abuse, and that she was not to blame. ‘When all this stuff happened to me I was given these three little books. And I just remember reading them over and over again, even to the age of 12, even a bit older ... I think the government used to supply them, I’m not a hundred per cent sure. But they used to always say, you know, it wasn’t your fault ... They were like little therapy books for children I think.’
These books explained ‘when people touch you in places like this, it’s wrong, and you know, they kind of told you that people manipulate you into doing things. They were good books, they really were. I think if anything, those are the things that helped me’.
Claudia was sent back to live with her father when she was nine. She went ‘off the rails’ and left school in her mid-teens, and had her first child not long after. ‘I’ve probably grown up to be, I don’t know, a promiscuous person myself.’
When her children were old enough Claudia went back to study, and found work in the health profession. Her husband is aware of the sexual abuse she experienced. She is not close to her father – ‘my and his relationship has been a very distant one. I think he holds himself responsible’ – but knows that he loves her, and has some contact with her mother. ‘It’s taken its impact on us I think as a family.’
At times Claudia has had issues with trust, anxiety, intimacy, and being over-protective of her children. ‘I’ve still got issues. I don’t let my children out of my sight ... I don’t even leave them with my brothers, I don’t even ask my own parents to babysit. I don’t trust anyone ... I have no one look after my children.’
Claudia describes herself as a ‘pretty strong person’ who has been able to get on with her life despite the trauma in her childhood, even though there are some triggers which bring back memories of the abuse. She has spoken a lot about the sexual abuse in her childhood, and ‘in my own sense, it didn’t really happen to me – it happened to me in a past life. Like, I’ve spoken about it that much, I’ve come to terms with it ... I like to think that I’ve dealt with it. It’s like it didn’t happen to me this lifetime’.