Crystal grew up in an Aboriginal community in Western Australia in the late 1970s. She told the Commissioner that her parents abused alcohol and her home life was very violent. For a while Crystal lived with her grandparents, but when she was 13, she was placed in kinship foster care and went to live with an aunt.
One day Crystal came home from school and went to a relative’s house. Her brother and a 17-year-old boy were there. When her brother left the room, the other boy grabbed her by the throat, threw her down, and anally raped her. Crystal ran home, but her aunt wasn’t there, and she sat on the verandah for hours waiting for her. When her aunt finally arrived, Crystal was too ashamed to tell her what had happened.
Crystal did not feel safe living with her aunt, so she ran away and ended up living on the streets. She began using amphetamines to try to shut out the memories. She has been homeless and in and out of jail much of her adult life.
Crystal told the Commissioner that she was sexually assaulted six times as a child. The first time was when she was about four. She cannot remember the details, but ‘I had a flashback and I could picture the person, but I blinked and like, it just faded away’. While still living with her parents, she was also assaulted by a cousin and an uncle. As an adult, she has been in abusive relationships and was raped several times by the father of her children.
When the father of her children raped her, ‘everywhere I went I could see rapists, rapists, raping … It made me sick and awful feeling and I kept complaining, “You’re a dirty prick. You’re a rapist prick. You’re like everyone else. I told you about my problems and told you why I’m like the way I am and you go and do that to me” and I put myself in jail for the last five years ‘cause there’s nowhere to go out there’.
Crystal has had some counselling, but ‘it brought back nightmares and because it’s happened like six times, I got traumatised and I just put myself in jail because I’ve got nowhere to go and I’m scared and I’ve been on the [housing] waiting list for nine years and I can’t get myself a house and I’m staying with these old drunken people … they let me sleep on the couch. I get scared sometimes because the men … that’s one of the reasons I take speed, to stay awake and that’.
The sexual abuse that Crystal experienced has had a big impact on her life and she has major mental health issues. ‘It’s traumatised me … I sleep with a knife, I’m so scared … Even at home, I lock my door. I’ve got a habit of getting up, checking the windows and locks. I dream about it. I’m very over-protective with other kids and that … You only have to take your eye off them for a split second and it can happen to them.’
Crystal believes that if she had a safe place to go, or someone to call when she needed help, she wouldn’t have to keep trying to ‘put myself in jail’. She told the Commissioner, ‘There’s a lot of girls that come to jail for the same reasons. I’ve talked to a few of them … Sad, isn’t it?’