Ellen Grace's story

Ellen was born in Queensland in the mid-1950s. Her parents struggled to cope financially with their large number of children and turned to their Catholic priest for advice. ‘My family trusted [Father Taylor] like you would not believe. He was a very, very nice man.’

When Father Taylor suggested that Ellen’s parents send some of their children to a children’s home run by the Sisters of Mercy, ‘[they] thought they were doing the right thing’. Ellen was three when she and five of her siblings were sent to the home, and she remained there for three years.

At the home, the children were subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse and the nuns and priests threatened Ellen that if she told anyone she would be separated from her siblings.

‘When we were there, the nuns were just as bad as the priests. Very, very bad. If we didn’t behave ourselves you know, we were thrown in an empty room and we were beaten. We were pissed on. We had our hair cut off. We were separated. How do you get over that?

‘I’ve never known what it was like to be loved. Ever. Ever … I didn’t even know how to love my children, because I’ve never been shown love. How do you get over that? You tell me.’

Ellen still feels angry that her virginity was taken from her by the priests at the home. ‘Every one of us should be able to lose [their] virginity the right way.’ She told the Commissioner that she was sexually abused by both the priests and nuns.

As she got older, Ellen confused sex with love, ‘just trying to find that man that actually loved me, and I never found it … They took away that chance, and it’s really, really sad, because I … don’t know how to love’.

Ellen told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve got so much anger. So much anger. Because, you know, even to the point that I was willing to take my own life just to stop thinking about it … All I want it to do is stop, for one night, get a good night’s sleep and just not have to think about it …

‘I look at myself and say, “[Nearly 60] years old … What have I got out of life? A life of misery”’. Ellen added, ‘Somebody’s either going to piss your day off, or make your day, and I haven’t had that “make your day” for a long, long time’.

Ellen hasn’t spoken to a doctor or counsellor about the abuse she experienced as a child. ‘It’s real hard for me to talk about … It’s like, you feel dirty. You absolutely feel dirty.’

Although Ellen tried to speak to staff at the support service Open Place, it didn’t help. ‘How can they actually say, “I know how you feel”? They don’t know how you feel.’

Ellen remarked that even when people have done good things in the past, it’s the bad things that she remembers. ‘You never forget the bad …

‘I tell ya, I used to think if you do bad by people karma come back in a big way, but I don’t think karma was around in those days, you know. Ever.’

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