Evie was five years old when her mother placed her and her older sisters in a community home in rural Western Australia in the late 1970s. She was under the care of houseparents Mr and Mrs Winchester and describes the time she had with them as ‘happy’. Without her mother around, Evie immediately warmed to them both as they treated all the children in the home ‘like their own children’.
Unfortunately for Evie, Mr and Mrs Winchester were replaced with new houseparents. Mr and Mrs Sealy were cruel and the standard of care deteriorated dramatically, making Evie and the others feel unsafe.
‘At the time Mr Sealy was houseparent, there was a lot of times I did see him coming into our room', she recalls. 'I felt someone sticking their finger in my private part and I was so frozen with fear I actually urinated. When I did that, they stopped. I was so frightened of waking up and seeing who it was.’
Over two years Evie was sexually abused several times. She was too scared to open her eyes to see who the attacker was, but she believes it was Mr Sealy.
Always frightened, Evie wet the bed often. Mrs Sealy would make Evie gather her laundry and wash it outside in the cold whilst spraying her with the hose. Mrs Sealy told the other children to laugh at her. She threatened to go through this ritual every time Evie wet the bed.
By the time Evie had turned seven Mr and Mrs Sealy were replaced by another married couple, Mr and Mrs Draft. The home’s standard of care hardly improved with these new houseparents as Mr Draft was particularly violent towards the children. He would beat and humiliate any child that did something wrong, and also watched the girls shower in the dormitory bathrooms.
Evie witnessed another girl being molested by a group of older boys. She reported the boys to Mr Draft, but they were not punished and she was accused of lying.
‘Draft grabbed me and starting belting me with the thongs all over my bottom. He threw the thongs down and started belting me with his hands. He was a very big bloke and as he was belting me I was falling on the ground and he just kept on going. He took me and said, “I’m sorry about this, you can go now boys, back to your dormitory” and he took me to the cottage. He grabbed the bar of soap and forcefully washing my mouth out until I bled.
‘He said, “Little girls shouldn’t tell fibs, they shouldn’t be tell-tales”. I was screaming and crying and he kept washing my mouth out.’
Evie’s mother took her and her sisters out of the home in the early 1980s and they relocated to Perth. Here, Evie’s life improved considerably; she went to school and was finally living with her own mother and her sisters again. However she could not hide the fact that she felt abandoned, and in some ways she blamed her mother for the abuse.
‘I said, “Where were you when I needed you?” … I felt that she didn’t love me and that’s why all this abuse was happening. Because she allowed it.’
Until she came to the Royal Commission, Evie had only told her husband about the abuse. She found intimacy difficult as she was uncomfortable when her husband touched her, and it was ‘hard to disconnect’ his touch his from the memory of her abuser. This is an issue that she is still dealing with today, and she greatly appreciates her husband’s loving support.
Evie was overprotective of her children while they were growing up. She enforced a strict curfew after school and never allowed them to go to their friends’ homes. She worried that something would happen to them and would panic if they were late home.
The humiliation Evie suffered at the children's home provoked an obsession with cleanliness, and she ‘wanted everything immaculate’. She would wash herself at least three times a day and would often make her husband scrub himself every time they were intimate. Evie noticed that her sisters had similar problems to herself as they reached adulthood, and suspects they also experienced sexual abuse as children.