Deanna was born into a large family in the early 1950s in regional New South Wales, but they never stayed long in one place. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was often not around to take care of the children. When Deanna was eight she assumed responsibility for caring for her younger siblings.
Deanna’s father sexually abused her between the ages of eight and 13, and she believes that she was the only child her father abused. She told the Commissioner that at some stage her father was charged but not convicted, and after this she went to live with her grandmother.
Deanna’s mother then left her father and came with the other children to stay with her grandmother. Soon, however, her mother ‘gave them all up’ to welfare and they were made wards of state. Deanna became furious with her mother and threw everything she could get her hands on at her. She was charged with being ‘uncontrollable’ and was sent to live at a government girls’ home in western Sydney, and never saw her siblings again.
It was the mid-1960s and Deanna was 15 years old. At first she found the home pleasant. The conditions were much better than she had with her own family – she had ‘a place to sleep, good food and no one bothered’ her.
Deanna came under the care of Officer Bradley Thomas, who was particularly violent. On one occasion she made a smart retort to Thomas and he punched her in the face and knocked her to the ground. He then beat her around the head and dragged her by her hair to ‘the dungeon’, leaving her there in the dark.
‘Later that night, a person came in and raped me. I remember I kneed him in the nether region and he bit me. I still have that scar on my hip today, it’s still there. He took a whole piece out of me.’
Deanna was not sure if Thomas was the one who raped her as it was too dark to see the man. During the attack she suffered facial injuries which required hospital treatment.
Deanna did not disclose the abuse to anyone in the home as she knew this would result in more physical abuse. ‘After he’d done that to me, it would have been a couple of weeks later. I was on the [sheltered area] with a group of girls and he walked past me and he stopped. He said “I got you good, didn’t I?”’
Deanna left the home shortly after her recovery from hospital, and went back to her grandmother’s house for a while. She remembers telling her grandmother what happened at the home, but nothing was done about it.
When she told her welfare officers what Thomas had done they accused her of being a ‘slut’, and one of the officers slapped her across the face. At the time she did not report to police but she has recently made a statement, which took several days to complete. She believes in capital punishment for paedophiles, or chemical castration as an alternative to this.
After the abuse Deanna ‘couldn’t go near men’ because she was frightened of being ‘bashed’ by someone. Throughout her adulthood she had sexual problems in her relationships. Her first marriage broke down because of this and she raised her children as a sole parent.
Deanna has twice attempted suicide, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She finds it difficult to trust people and keeps to herself. Although she has been to counselling she has difficulty trusting counsellors.