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Giulia's story

‘I was brought up, “Go to a police officer if you’re having problems, go to the church if you’re having problems, they will help you.” People that I’ve been brought up to respect and to look at in this particular way, they were the ones that did the most damage. The government bodies that … tried apparently to intervene and to help and that, they made things worse ... They’ve all failed me … I’ve kept it under wraps all these years because I didn’t want to - I don’t know - bring it all back up … I felt like I was feeling sorry for myself.’

Giulia grew up in Brisbane in the 1970s. Her father was the peacekeeper in the family, but her mother was ‘heavy handed’ and Giulia sometimes went to school with whip marks. Giulia described herself as ‘always a good kid’ in primary school, but after that things changed. She started to run away from home on the weekends.

After receiving reports about Giulia being ‘unjustly treated’, the state government put her into foster care when she was in her early teens. Her foster family fostered other children as well, more girls than boys, and were church people. The father was ‘maybe the numero uno of the church’. He had ‘some high role there’.

Her foster father would discipline Giulia by hitting her bare bottom, and come into the bathroom while she was showering. ‘He would also stand very close to you and there was times where he stood that close that he’d have his penis pushed against you and now, at the age I am, [I realise] it was erect.’

There was also an incident with another foster child in the family, a boy in his late teens. He threatened Giulia, forcing her to let him feel her breasts and vagina. Giulia started running away and was consequently taken to a government-run home that was largely designed to accommodate children that had broken the law.

As part of the admission process, Giulia had to have a very painful, internal medical examination. ‘I told [the doctor] that I had not been sexually active. He said “All you girls are sexually active” … And he was hurting me … and he would not stop … and I always felt that it was dirty and sick … There was no reason to go there or do that.’

Giulia was also abused by a staff member. ‘I remember him coming into the shower and, yeah, he pulled his penis out and he wanted me to touch him and stroke it … His attitude was that, you know, all us girls are basically “tarred with the same brush”, whatever that meant … You were scared of not complying with what he asked because you couldn’t go anywhere. You couldn’t run away. You couldn’t get out. You’d have to contend with this person day in day out.’

On another occasion he forced Giulia into oral sex, threatening to interfere with her release if she didn’t comply.

‘There’s a self-worth aspect that this keeps happening. You feel like that possibly you’ve brought it on in some way. Like there was a time, later in life, where I thought “Why did that happen? Did I do something? Did I say something?” But I was too young to do or say anything that would encourage that.’

After about three months Giulia left the home to stay with friends, but there were problems with the father and she had to leave. Giulia never went back to her parents and worked hard at a variety of jobs to support herself. She later went on to do higher paid work in administrative roles.

When the state government introduced a redress scheme Giulia applied and disclosed the abuse for the first time. ‘When I did that I remember thinking that maybe that would open the door to something. It’s not the money. It’s these people should get in trouble.’ When she was awarded the minimum payment of less than $10,000 she felt ‘like it wasn’t important. I felt then I wasn’t important’.

Giulia has never had counselling but believes the abuse has impacted on her relationships. ‘I think I’ve got a problem with men but I think it’s the men have a problem with me … They want to hook up with me and then they want to control me. And then, when I want to break away, they become obsessed. And it seems to happen a lot and I think “Is it me? What have I done to make them feel like that?”’

Despite this, Giulia has successfully raised her children and given them a good education. She did this out of ‘a determination to be good at something’.

‘I’ve never needed any [personal support]. I just - bad things happen and I could sit there and chuck a tantrum or have a cry about it. It’s not going to change anything. So you just move on. You just keep going.’

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