‘I just want to have my five minutes of someone believing me without any family being involved. I just want someone to believe me.’
Evangeline never knew her father. Her mother had a mental illness and would often move around a lot, taking her children with her or leaving them in homes for extended periods because she was unable to cope. Evangeline said she was basically raised by her older half-sister.
In the early 1970s Evangeline was nine when her mother left and never came back. The children were made wards of the state and moved to a children’s home in a suburb of Sydney. A few weeks later Evangeline was separated from her siblings and placed in a foster home.
The Lennoxes lived in a regional town of New South Wales. Evangeline describes the Lennoxes as a very cold and dysfunctional family. Her foster father was a cruel man who sulked when he was offended or angry. Evangeline recalls treading on eggshells when he didn’t speak to the family for days. Her foster mother never showed any affection.
Evangeline shared the foster home with the Lennoxes’ adopted son, Travis, who was 15 years old. She said within weeks of her arrival, Travis sexually abused her in the lounge room. Evangeline was watching television when Travis asked her to lay down on the lounge with him and hugged her from behind. Travis then put his hands down her pants and pushed his erection into her backside.
‘I just turned off and focused on [the television character] while it was happening. Mum said that dinner was ready and I bounded into the [kitchen] … I thought after that I was never going to go into that room again.’
After the abuse occurred, she suddenly remembered her Department of Family and Community Services (DOCS) case worker, Ian Parker, telling her that she was ‘so lucky’ to be going to a foster home. Parker had told her she shouldn’t ‘stuff it up’ and ruin her placement and so she felt compelled not say anything. Evangeline didn’t want to be sent back to a children’s home. She then avoided all situations where she would be alone with her foster brother.
Throughout her teenage years Evangeline told no one about the abuse. She would refuse to have anything to do with Travis at the house and would often ignore him. Evangeline said there were times that she wanted to disclose the abuse to her foster mother but was scared to do so.
In the early 1970s when she was 17, Evangeline was almost abused by her case worker, Ian Parker. One afternoon, Parker picked her up from school and offered to take her home. He then pulled over and touched her leg while telling her how ‘lovely’ she was. Evangeline was overcome with shock and pushed him away before getting out of the car and walking home. She never saw Parker again and didn’t tell anyone what happened.
When she was 19 Evangeline married and moved out of the Lennox home. She and her husband travelled around Australia for many years and had children together. He was ‘the first person who said he loved’ her and she was touched by that statement. However, her husband was controlling and wouldn’t let her have any friends.
Throughout her late teens and adulthood Evangeline has felt insecure in all her relationships, including intimate ones. She has been very aware of older men and doesn’t trust them. She experiences flashbacks and has had major depressive episodes. She is currently on anti-depressants and sees a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly.
Evangeline first disclosed the details of the abuse to her husband when she was in her mid-20s. She then told her foster parents a couple of years later and they didn’t react well. Evangeline was told to 'keep her trap shut' and that was the end of the conversation. She confronted Travis about the abuse, but he denied it. Evangeline no longer has anything to do with Travis and is hurt because her foster parents tell people she’s jealous of him.
After two decades of marriage Evangeline’s husband left her. She said there was a bitter custody dispute over their youngest child and her ex-husband used her sexual abuse history against her. Evangeline was distraught because it was suggested that she was a poor parent and may abuse children. She lost custody and is now estranged from her children.
In the late 1990s Evangeline went to the police to discuss the abuse. She said the police woman was lovely and she had a positive experience with her. The officer told her to think long and hard about whether to take any action. Evangeline also reported Ian Parker to the police and was satisfied to know that he was no longer working with children. Today she is still unsure if she should engage in civil action against the department because of the effect it would have on her old foster family.