Eva was placed in care in Western Australia in the mid-1970s, when she was two years old. Her parents were both alcoholics, and her mother had been sent to jail for a violent assault on her father.
Eva cannot remember much of her life before she was six, but knows that she spent time in a number of children’s homes and in foster care.
‘There are things, there are sounds, sights, smells, things that, you know, trigger past memories, but I work very hard not to dwell on things that have happened in the past.’
When she was 12, Eva was sent to an Aboriginal hostel that boarded students from remote areas, so that they could attend school. There were about 70 children at the hostel, 36 of them girls, and Eva ‘pretty much fought my way through every one of them. I was the youngest and smallest there, and I was white. Didn’t help’. Eva’s stepfather at the time was Aboriginal, so that was why she was sent there.
‘The girls were all violent. I had one friend … She didn’t really fit in. Then another girl got sent there and … those two sort of ended up becoming friends. I remember trying to sit with them one day … and she put her hand in dog crap and wiped it in my face … I’ll never forget that … She was supposed to be my friend … My only friend. Or so I thought.’
A doctor told Eva recently that she’s too young for the degree of degeneration in her neck, ‘from just like, old healing fractures from having your hair gripped and your head, I guess whipped around’.
Eva was sexually abused at a number of institutions and foster homes. She remembers waking up during the night ‘and there’d be some filthy person with their hands in your pants, at different hostels and places’.
When she was 11, before she went to the hostel, Eva told a teacher about one abuser and the teacher told Eva’s mother. Eva also told her mother about other instances of abuse, but nothing was ever done about it.
The hostel was run by a married couple who lived in their own residence. There was another couple who lived with the children, and were supposed to look after them. Instead, they acted more like friends of the older children under their care.
‘They would be sitting right there, and you would be on the couch watching a movie and there would be hands coming out into blankets and you’d just be like frozen … and they would be right there and you’d be thinking, “Please say something”.’
At the hostel, older residents would expose themselves to Eva, fondle her while she slept, and ask her to perform sex acts. She was in constant fear of abuse. This caused her to wet her bed, for which she was physically punished by the staff.
Eva spent much of her late teens and early 20s being self-destructive. ‘I spent a lot of years being drunk all the time, being a little bit angry and hysterical, and you know, there’s been periods of time where I have used recreational drugs and things like that.’
Eva told the Commissioner, ‘There’s no one point you can say, “It was worse when I was six than it was when I was four”, or “than it was when I was 12”. It was just all blended in together to make absolute horrific experience, after experience, after experience and you were actually glad to be grown up and be drunk … I was empowering myself with alcohol’.
Having a child turned Eva’s life around. Now that she’s a mother, Eva is hypervigilant. She will not let her children out of her sight, and recognises that this may become a problem as they get older.
‘I think maybe I need to … I mean, my mind says, “What are you doing? That’s not healthy for them”, and my friends think I’m crazy. I know it’s not normal, but at the same time … maybe for their benefit, I need to get the courage to, instead of going on my life and what happened to me, let them have their lives.’
Eva never thought of reporting her sexual abusers to the police. ‘[I was] just too busy self-destructing. And, “Who are they? Where were they? When did it happen?” You don’t have any facts and figures to give anybody. All you have is memories.'
‘Times have changed now, but [then], unless you had actual facts and figures and evidence, there was no way you were believed over an adult in a position. I mean, now we know that children don’t lie about those sort of things … but that was not the case.’
Eva believes that ‘You are only who you are today … That is who you are, not what’s happened to you before … You are what you do today and what you intend to do tomorrow. Don’t live down bad memory lane. Live for tomorrow’.
Eva told the Commissioner that what happened to her as a child is ‘a cloak of grief that I cannot live with. I just need to bury it’.