Danielle Heather's story

Danielle moved to a regional area in Victoria when her parents separated in the 1970s. Two weeks after she arrived, she was grabbed on the street, dragged under a bush and raped. This was just one of a number of brutal rapes she was subjected to during her teenage years. She still suffers from multiple physical health issues as a result.

Danielle told the Commissioner that there seemed to be a culture in the town of, ‘the priests do it. We can do it too’. Danielle saw no point in telling her mother about any of the sexual assaults because, ‘she wasn’t interested in what happened to me. She was only interested in making my father suffer … Everything that went wrong was his fault. Always’.

When she and her mother moved to Victoria, Danielle had to attend a new school. ‘I was bullied incessantly because I always had my head in a book, and I was put into Form 5 instead of Form 4, and the work was so different and so advanced, and I struggled … How does a top of the class, top 10 per cent student, end up getting a Z?’

Danielle wanted to have some time off school and return later, once the students who were bullying her had left, but she wasn’t allowed to. Instead, she was made to work six days a week at a local business, ‘and half my wage, of not very much, went to my mother’.

When she was 16, Danielle thought she might have thrush, so she made an appointment to see a doctor near her workplace. She couldn’t take time off work, so she had to go in her lunchtime.

‘He took me into a storeroom … and he didn’t leave the room while I got undressed or give me anything to put over me.’ The doctor told Danielle that he needed to examine her breasts and when she queried him, he told her that if she didn’t let him, he wouldn’t examine her, or prescribe anything for the thrush.

‘He inserted more than one finger … into my vagina.’ While he was doing this, the doctor began fondling Danielle’s breasts. ‘I knew he was not doing an examination. He was doing something to me that I knew should not be happening.’

The doctor told Danielle to get dressed. ‘He did not leave the room while I dressed. I felt dirty and used.’ When the thrush didn’t clear up, Danielle was forced to go back to the doctor, and once again, he sexually abused her. After the second incident, Danielle decided not to go back, and tried to heal herself with various products.

Danielle has spent her adult years battling mental health professionals. She feels, ‘they won’t engage with me … They won’t engage in the conversation’. Rather than listen to her story of abuse, they just want to medicate her. She has been diagnosed with a number of disorders, but has rejected most of the diagnoses.

‘It’s not all okay, but I’m here and I’ve done an enormous amount of work to get here … I’ve waited my whole life for this to come, but that little person that didn’t have teddies as a child, that has teddies now, is sort of waiting for the next bogeyman to jump out, because that’s kind of how it goes.’

Danielle told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve done a lot of things, and I should have been really successful ... [but] one, [the abuse] robbed me of all that and two, society and community don’t ever let you back in’.

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