‘The sexual abuse has really impacted me now. Because I can’t have that same connection with my family as I’d like to.’
Emma was made a state ward in the mid-1990s, when she was two years old. She and her siblings were placed in a kinship care arrangement with her aunty, less than an hour’s drive from Perth. ‘My mum had a mental illness, just couldn’t cope with us.’
There were many children in her aunty’s house, and Emma did not receive a great deal of care or attention. Her brother Blake, who was 10 years older, lived in the garage on and off for a while. Given their age difference, ‘I never really had a good connection with him’.
Emma was around 11 when Blake called her into the garage one day and raped her.
When Emma’s caseworker from the Department of Child Protection came to visit she burst into tears, and disclosed the sexual assault, ‘but they didn’t really listen to me’.
Emma was too scared to disclose the rape to her aunty, as ‘she used to flog us all the time. No one really listened’.
To escape the situation she stole some money and ran away, taking one of her younger sisters with her. They located their mum and lived with her for a while.
‘That didn’t really work out, because there was still more sexual abuse with my stepfather.’
Emma remembers going with her sister to a hospital for a ‘full body check-up’ when she was around 12. ‘Apparently that indicated some knowledge of us being tampered with’, but the department ‘didn’t do nothing about it’.
Her mum was with them for this examination. ‘I think she got the results back. And she just went right off her head.’
Emma’s education was disrupted, and she had a baby when she was in her mid-teens. She kept away from the department as she did not trust them, and wanted to keep her child. ‘I didn’t want anything to do with them. Because I felt they never listened to me.’
The department ‘tried to get my partner [who was an adult] for carnal knowledge’, but Emma didn’t want to press charges against him. She was subjected to domestic violence in this relationship.
Emma used cannabis, alcohol and methamphetamine to cope with these experiences. She went on to have more children. One of her kids is in state care, while the others live with their father.
She experiences flashbacks and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past she has been to a sexual assault counselling service – ‘they really helped me with how to cope’.
Recently Emma reported the sexual abuse to police, but the detective advised her he could not proceed with taking a statement. She thinks the case was handed on to another officer, but she’s never been contacted by the police again.
When Emma tried to get her care records, she was told ‘apparently there’s stuff in there I’m not meant to see’, and they were not provided. She has now been referred to a legal firm regarding pursuing civil action against the department. ‘I don’t really like the Department of Child Protection at all. They’ve ruined my life.’