In the late 1960s, Elodie’s parents migrated to Queensland and started a family. Her mother died when she was a toddler, and her father abused drugs and alcohol, was physically and emotionally abusive, and placed her in situations where she was sexually assaulted by some of his friends.
‘I couldn’t understand why he kept on subjecting me to these people that were doing harm to me. And I didn’t understand what was going on. We’d go on a camping trip or something and there’d be this sexual predator that was a friend of my dad’s. I just got angrier and angrier.’
By the time she was about 10, Elodie’s father often left her to her own devices, or refused to have her in the house. She was ‘constantly’ picked up by the police for being on the streets, and eventually placed with foster families. However, ’they were quite overcrowded,’ she said. ‘They had their own children, so there was a lot of disparity in treatment. You didn’t feel comfortable.’
When she was almost in her teens, Elodie was placed in a government-run children’s home near Brisbane. She said that a few weeks after a girl had warned about a ‘predator’, the man ‘came down one night and tried to have his way with me … I fought him off.
'So he took me up to the younger children’s section where there was an isolation room, and that’s where I was raped, and kept there for about 24 hours. And as soon as I was allowed out, I ran away.’
Elodie was ‘traumatised’, and ended up back on the streets. Picked up by the police again, she was then placed in a youth detention centre for the next two years.
‘I think one of the hardest things about the time in [the centre] was the level of isolation I experienced. I would quite often get put into … time-out rooms which would be for periods up to 48 hours. And it was extremely tough because the time … when I was sexually assaulted was in a similar environment, and I was always very scared of someone coming in.’
Elodie was ‘physically abused very often’ in the centre, and recounted one incident when a ‘grown man’ threw her headfirst into a wall and knocked her out, simply because she had complained about not being allowed to watch TV. She did not experience sexual abuse at this second facility. However, she recalled a period where deodorant was confiscated from the whole complex ‘because it was being used as lubricant by boys on the boys’ side to rape other boys’. Instead of ‘dealing with instances like that, the staff kind of would hush it up’.
When Elodie left the centre in her mid teens, she avoided the authorities by moving north. She fell pregnant while in a violent relationship and lived for a time in women’s refuges. She believes that her childhood experiences of abuse predisposed her to have ‘violent personal relationships’.
‘Each partner I’ve had has been very violent towards me’, she said. ‘I’m better off not to have relationships because I pick such poor partners … I’m much better off single.’
Elodie completed a university degree in her 30s. ‘I really wanted to be rid of all the authority in my life’, she said. ‘I sort of thought that financial independence would enable me to be rid of those controlling forces.’ Elodie worked for about a decade in the human services, ‘but unfortunately the trauma that I’ve experienced kind of puts me back’. She decided to withdraw from that line of work.
A couple of years ago, Elodie told her father that one of his friends had sexually abused her.
‘He had very little to say about it’, she said. His ‘bizarre’ and experimental parenting had been remarked upon by others. ‘But my question to that is, "Why didn’t anyone do anything? Why did some of it continue on for so long?"’
Elodie has been ‘fairly vocal’ about the abuse she experienced in her father’s care, but she has ‘struggled to talk about’ the sexual abuse in the children’s home. She was invited to give evidence at the Forde Inquiry but declined because, at that stage, she was ‘still quite traumatised’.
Her previous ‘negative involvement’ with the police has stopped her from making a report. However, about 10 years ago, she successfully managed her own claim for victim’s compensation.
Elodie has struggled with PTSD, and is medicated for depression, but has found counselling ‘helpful’. She has a job, does not have a lot of social contact, but is in touch with most of her children.
‘I’m very realistic about my strengths and weaknesses, and try and decrease my level of stress in every aspect of my life. That’s why I live so simply.’
Elodie ‘would really like to see institutions for children dismantled’. She would also like to see children given the option of being placed with relatives overseas.
‘I should have been sent back … That’s really the primary intervention that would have resolved things. Because the level of abuse that my father was exposing me to was horrific. And if my maternal family had’ve known about it, I do believe things would have been much different for me.’