Deena was born into a very large family, living in a regional town in Western Australia during the 1970s. She stayed there for several years before moving to a different town to live with her grandmother. Deena loved living there and enjoyed going to school.
When she was eight, Deena’s parents moved to a different town, leaving her with her grandmother. She said after her parents left she began acting out at school. Deena associated with a group of kids who liked to steal and she was eventually caught at the age of 13. She believes it was then that she was made a ward of the state and removed from her grandmother’s care.
Deena was relocated to another town and placed into a children’s training centre. Shortly after, she was moved to a cottage home for children. Deena said the treatment she received from the workers was harsh and she received many painful physical examinations. She was at the home for several months before returning to her parents.
When she was 14, Deena and her parents were living with her father’s sister, Morgana. She said that the house was horribly crowded with family members. At times it was overwhelming for Deena as she shared a bedroom with her immediate family.
Deena knew her older cousin Richard was always around the home. Richard was Morgana’s son and she believes he was seven years older than her. It wasn’t long before she was raped by Richard. Deena believes it happened at least 15 times and he never used protection.
‘I tried to fight him off but he was too strong, I kept on telling him to stop it and leave me alone. He just ignored me.’
Deena tried to avoid Richard as much as she could but he always found a way to corner her. On one occasion she tried to fight him off her and got punched in the face. Deena made sure she complied if he caught her after that. As soon as she turned 15, she fell pregnant with Richard’s baby. Deena couldn’t tell anyone that her cousin had abused her.
‘I said that a boy of my age was the father. I did not tell anyone about the sexual abuse then. He would take me by force from my bedroom or grab me when I was outside and take me into the backyards and assault me [if I did]. I was too frightened and ashamed to tell anyone.’
Shortly after having her baby, Deena’s parents moved to another town in Western Australia. Deena did not see her cousin for several years after she relocated. She listed her childhood friend as the father on her child’s birth certificate and told him that was the case. Deena was grateful that her friend accepted her baby as his own.
Raising her child was difficult and took its toll on Deena. For many years she abused drugs and alcohol to cope with the flashbacks and nightmares. She explained that because she was often drunk or drug-affected, her child had a ‘hard time’ growing up. Deena was also physically abusive towards her child, which has resulted in her child following a similar path to her own.
Deena has difficulty in trusting others. She has intimacy issues and has been unable to maintain relationships with men. Deena has anger issues and struggles with stress and anxiety. She has engaged in counselling but found it hard to connect with the right counsellor.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Deena first disclosed the details of her abuse. She reported it to the local police, but after several visits to the police no further action was taken. Deena explained that she was still frightened of her cousin and did not report Richard to the police again for several years.
In recent years, Deena reported her cousin to the police again. Richard was charged with indecent assault but pled not guilty. She explained that there was a delay between her initial complaint and the matter going to trial. Deena described the trial process to be ‘scary’ and she gave evidence from a witness room so she wouldn’t have any contact with Richard.
Richard was eventually convicted of the offences but was granted bail when the matter was adjourned for sentencing. She was still frightened of Richard and was worried he would come and find her. However, Richard died before he could be convicted.
‘I still don’t know why they granted him bail.’
Shortly after the trial, Deena applied for victims of crime compensation and was granted $28,000 compensation. She said $10,000 was taken in legal fees by her lawyer. Deena would like to see adults being educated about child sexual abuse through mandatory programs in the future.