At five years of age and already molested by her father and brother, Glenda was taken to the local Catholic church in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and sat on the knee of the priest, Father Mullin.
As he fondled her, the priest asked if anyone had done this to her before. Yes, said Glenda, her dad did.
Mullin told the little girl that ‘God told me we had to do this. I have to teach you’. He asked if she agreed. Scared, and having only just started school at the end of World War II, Glenda agreed.
What followed was years of abuse, including vaginal and anal penetration, until her family moved when she was nine.
‘The nuns would say, “Father wants to see you over in the office” so I’d toddle off’, Glenda recalled. ‘Sometimes I cried and when I come back teachers used to say to me, “Why are you crying, did you get in trouble? Did you get strapped?” I’d say, “Yeah”.’
When Glenda told her mother about the three perpetrators she was told to keep quiet about her father and brother – ‘got to think about the family reputation’ – and that the priest’s abuse ‘did not happen’.
Glenda believes she may have been targeted by Mullin after he learned about the sexual abuse from her father or brother in confession.
Married at 15 to get away from the continual abuse at home, Glenda wanted to return after two months. But her mother, who had given her permission to marry, said, ‘You’ve made your bed, now lie in it’.
‘So I became a street kid’, Glenda said. Found drinking in a hotel at 16, police charged her with being ‘in moral danger’. In the late 50s she was sent to a notorious residential care facility for girls in Sydney.
On her arrival she – and she was not alone, she found later – was sexually abused by the doctor. Later she became the dental assistant, where her duties included holding the heads of girls whose teeth were extracted without pain relief.
One day the dentist threatened her with the same fate if she didn’t have sex with him. Glenda had no choice, but he still pulled out four of her teeth afterwards as a warning to stay silent. At the insistence of a female staff member, Miss Brown, Glenda was sent to hospital after she had haemorrhaged.
Glenda recalled that when she disclosed the dentist’s abuse, Miss Brown had told her nothing could be done. But, pointing to her head, the woman said ‘It’s all going up here’ and that she might be able to do something with the information later.
Soon after Glenda’s arrival at the residential facility the superintendent, Mr Button, raped her in the area known as the ‘dungeon' over several days.
‘Well, you being married, what we do won’t hurt you, will it?’ Button told her.
‘I said, “No, no, no, no, no. I don’t want to do this.”’ Glenda said she then ‘got a hiding’.
‘And then he raped me on the bench and then he took me to isolation. And they had a ring on the wall and you had your hands tied … for the first 24 hours. You had to stand there and you could just touch the floor. A lot of them [girls] I don’t think would have been able to touch the floor … Well, I came out and my arms were black ... And that was the first time.’
Glenda said that afterwards she did not fight Button ‘any more’.
The assistant superintendent, Mr Alford, also took turns to sexually abuse her.
Glenda said Alford told her, ‘You can share a bit of what you’ve got with me, too.
‘It was just plain sex and rape’, she said.
Button also raped Glenda on the last day of her 10-month incarceration. And when she threatened to tell someone one day he said, ‘They won’t believe you. We’re respected members of the community’.
Glenda tried to block out her experiences for many, many years. Homeless beforehand, she turned to prostitution, spent time in jail for soliciting and vagrancy, and drank and gambled, battling low self-worth and the feeling the abuse was her fault.
Glenda didn’t speak about what had happened to her in care until recently when she told her doctor, who referred her to a counsellor. Now her children – her salvation – and her husband know.
Her suggestions to prevent sexual abuse include that children coming forward with disclosures should be believed, offenders should be jailed for longer and monitored on release, and that caseworkers should offer support to children who leave out-of-home care. Residential children’s homes and schools should display signs that read something like ‘Don’t Accept Abuse’.
As a committed Christian, Glenda asks for forgiveness daily for herself, her parents and her abusers.
‘I couldn’t do anything better to save kids’, said Glenda, who has fostered more than 100 children, of telling her story to the Royal Commission. ‘Something will come out of it.
‘I mean, it’s still happening with kids in care and kids in kindergartens. I just want it out in the open and not this “hush, hush” any more because that’s what it was.’