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Gracie Anne's story

Growing up was tough for Gracie. Her mother left the family to be with another man and when her father had trouble raising the children on his own Gracie was made a ward of the state. She was placed into a children’s home in a regional town in Queensland in the early 1970s for three years, before she was fostered by the Wilson family.

Gracie enjoyed the first few years with the Wilsons. Their home was large and had a big garden, where she played games with the Wilson children. The Wilsons had also fostered another younger girl, Sally, who was a similar age to Gracie. The pair became close and both felt ‘a part of the family’.

However, when the Wilsons moved to a regional town in New South Wales, their new home felt more like a ‘prison’. The parents were violent and extremely religious, and forced Gracie to participate in church services. Home life was strict and Gracie did all the household chores. Both fostered girls were isolated from their biological families and were often told lies about their whereabouts. Mr and Mrs Wilson told Gracie her parents died in a car accident.

‘Dad used to target Sally and Mum used to target me … Mum used to backhand me at the drop of a hat and my head would go flying forward and headbutt the table. A couple of times I wouldn’t know why I got in trouble for. She’d belt the shit out of me, so badly that I’d end up on the ground and weep. She would beat me again.’

In the late 1970s, when Gracie was eight, the Wilson sons Alex, Fred and Walter, began to sexually abuse her and Sally. Gracie remembers that the first sexual assault happened when she was playing hide and seek with Alex. When Alex found Gracie in her hiding spot, he made her lie on top of him naked. Gracie believes Alex was 14 years old when he first abused her.

Gracie was abused by the older Wilson boys for seven years. Fred covered her mouth before putting his hands down her pants and ‘shoved himself inside’ her a number of times. Walter would grab Gracie and kiss her whilst pressing his erection on her. Alex used to watch Gracie in the shower and would often make her lie, face down and rub himself against her. Gracie knows that both Sally and Deanna, the Wilson boys’ biological sister, received similar treatment.

Gracie remembers trying to tell Mr and Mrs Wilson about their sons’ behaviour when she was 12 years old. Mr Wilson did not believe them. And when caseworkers visited, Gracie was ‘too scared’ to disclose the abuse with the Wilson parents in the same room. Gracie felt like she couldn’t tell anyone, nor discuss the abuse with Sally or Deanna.

‘Sally and I never had been involved with sex education or learnt anything about wrong doings or even menstrual cycles, intercourse and all that sort of thing. How could we possibly make up a story if we didn’t know anything about [sex]?’

Gracie found her birth certificate in the Wilsons home when she was 15 years old. She discovered that she had biological siblings and the Wilsons had been lying about her family. This motivated her to visit her school counsellor for information. In one of her sessions she also disclosed details of the abuse she had endured. Two days later, Gracie and Sally were removed from the Wilsons’ care.

Gracie continued her education living in a children’s home before she was moved to another foster home where she stayed briefly before moving to Sydney to stay with a school friend. A caseworker told Gracie that her biological parents had been writing to her for years, but she never received the letters. She was finally able to meet her family in Sydney.

Gracie married when she was in her early 30s and had children. In adulthood she had intimacy issues and is ‘not big on sex’. Since separating in the early 2000s, she now has a loving, long-term partner. She said working hard has always been a great coping mechanism and she’s always had a job.

Sally reported the Wilson brothers to police in the late 1990s, but nothing eventuated. Gracie and Sally both made complaints to Sydney police and an investigation is proceeding. Civil action is also an option as Gracie would like compensation.

Attending the Royal Commission was a great thing. ‘To be heard, and to want to be heard and to have someone hear me say what I want to say: I have to get it out. I have to tell someone about the abuse to feel like I’ve been listened to and believed.’

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