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Fleur Emma's story

Fleur was made a ward of the state when she was 18 months old, and has never had a bond with her parents. Protective Services collected Fleur and her siblings while they were travelling to their grandmother’s place. She was separated from her siblings and did not reconnect with them until she was in her 30s.

For the first four years of her life, Fleur was moved from foster home to foster home where she was physically abused by many different foster parents. Fleur retreated into herself and wouldn’t speak unless she was spoken to. She couldn’t tell any of her caseworkers what was happening.

In the mid 1960s, when she was four, Fleur was removed from foster care and placed in a convent in suburban Melbourne. A caseworker had found burn marks and bruises on her body, so they thought it was best to remove her from the foster care system.

She was relieved to go somewhere else but she immediately disliked being in the convent as the nuns were violent and cruel. They forced her to take care of the younger residents, without rewarding her for her work. She stayed there until she was 10 but said she felt empty, and couldn’t connect with anyone

‘There was no real bonding, you make a few friends in there but once they’ve moved on that’s it.’

It was arranged that Fleur would visit her maternal uncle, Nick, on weekends and during school holidays. She first visited him at his home several weeks after arriving at the convent. Fleur was sexually abused by Nick on multiple occasions until she was 10.

Fleur didn’t know that the abuse was wrong. She never spoke out about it, but Nick threatened her not to say anything anyway. Fleur was also worried that she would get into trouble with the nuns if she told them what was happening.

‘If you didn’t get into trouble for it, I probably would have spoken up earlier. Because you knew there were consequences, you kept your mouth shut.’

In the early 70s Fleur was moved to a Catholic girls’ home. This time, her caseworker arranged for her to visit her mother on weekends and during the school holidays. She remembers feeling very disconnected from her family because she didn’t know them.

Fleur was sexually abused by another uncle, Ben, for three years, whenever she went to her mother’s home. When she was 14, she told her mother but she wasn’t believed. The abuse stopped when she was moved to another institution.

Fleur spent two years living in a youth hostel, where she was sexually abused by the gardener on multiple occasions. She tried to tell the staff and her caseworker, but nothing was done.

When she was 18, she was discharged from state care and dumped onto the streets. She was several months pregnant and had nowhere to stay. Not even her mother wanted to care for her, so her social worker helped her find a hostel.

Throughout her late teens and adulthood, Fleur has had intimacy issues. She finds it hard to go to the doctor. The flashbacks and memories have intensified over the years, which has been traumatic for her. She said that she has a sensitive radar when it comes to paedophiles and can identify a perpetrator instantly.

She first disclosed the details of the abuse to her ex-partner after her child was born. She didn’t tell her children until much later in life. In the mid-90s Fleur reported the abuse to police. That was when she learnt that what happened to her was wrong.

She reported Nick to police again in the early 2000s. She was upset he couldn’t be located, but happy with the way her case was handled. She also reported Ben and he was charged. It upset her deeply when Ben was eventually found not guilty.

At the time of her private session, Fleur had received $80,000 in compensation from the government. She didn’t receive an apology and was forced to sign a deed of release saying that she couldn’t talk about her case.

Fleur approached Towards Healing for counselling. She had an agreement with the Sisters that they would pay for it, but this had not happened. She did receive an apology from the Mother Superior of the Catholic girls’ home, but said it meant nothing to her.

‘To me, that’s not an apology because she didn’t do it.’

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