Farrah is a woman with an intellectual disability who was sexually abused many times as a child. From an early age she learned to keep quiet about it.
‘A teacher was playing around sexually with me, and I told my mum many times. She just slapped my face.’
At age eight Farrah was removed from her mother’s care and sent to a government-run children’s home in South Australia. Several years into her stay, just as she hit puberty, one of the staff members began to molest her.
‘He told me if I go and tell somebody I’d be in a wooden box in the cemetery.’
So Farrah never mentioned the abuse to any of the other girls, even though she knew she wasn’t the man’s only victim.
‘There was one girl, I think she might have ended up dying because of it. She was pregnant … She maybe carried his child. And she finished up disappeared.’
Farrah left the home at 15 when she was fostered by the Barret family. Soon Mr Barret began sexually abusing her. By this stage, with yet another paedophile singling her out, Farrah couldn’t help but see herself as marked in some way.
‘I’m gentle. I’m genuine. The whole problem is some men take advantage of me. Every person as they grow up, they’ve got a pretty smile, and a smile takes a man the wrong way. Some men will deceive you for that.’
For many months Farrah kept quiet about what Mr Barret was doing because she was afraid of being sent back to the children’s home. Then one day, when she just couldn’t take it anymore, she told Welfare.
Welfare moved Farrah to a boarding house – and that was that. They never took action against Mr Barret or offered Farrah any support. With only herself to rely on, Farrah managed to find a job and enough money to pay for her board. Weighed down by poor education and bad memories she did her best to get by.
‘It hasn’t been easy. I tried to shut it out. I believe you could say, “Let sleeping dogs lie”, but it will always be with me. Memories. It’s like if you’ve been scarred for life.’
In her early 30s, Farrah attempted suicide.
‘Because I’d had enough of it … I’d had enough of men taking advantage of me, expect me to surrender to them, be weak as anything, and I don’t think much of myself.’
Buoyed up by her Christian faith, Farrah recovered and seized control of her life again. Remarkably, she’s managed to do so without a trace of bitterness.
‘I always have this vision, out of the Bible, there’s a ladder … God and Jesus looking down through the blue sky, sun around. From the sun, Jesus is looking down, saying “Come on, Farrah, keep on climbing, keep on learning, put your head up high, never mind”.’