Greta grew up in a violent home where her parents ‘used to beat the crap out of each other’, which was why she could never tell them that her father’s friend was sexually abusing her. ‘I was just as scared of them as I was of him’, she told the Commissioner.
The abuse occurred over a period of about five years and only stopped because the man infected Greta with gonorrhea. ‘My aunty took me to the hospital because she could smell it.’ Greta attempted suicide while in the hospital and was put into the psych ward for a short while. ‘And that’s when they put me into the home. So, from the frying pan into the fire.’
This was how, in the mid-1970s, 10-year-old Greta found herself living at a home for Aboriginal children. The home was run by a couple named Mr and Mrs Wilcox. Mrs Wilcox was physically abusive and regularly flogged the kids, including Greta. Mr Wilcox did worse things to some of the kids, but never to Greta. Looking back, she speculates that this was because he knew about her infection.
Greta said that Mr Wilcox sexually abused many of the kids, girls and boys, but his favourite was a little boy named Billy. Billy was younger than Greta, maybe eight years old. ‘When I first got there,’ Greta said, ‘I walked into the bedroom because I heard Billy crying and Mr Wilcox had him at the end of the bed, standing up. Billy had no pants on but Mr Wilcox was standing behind him. And I was told to get out’.
This was the only time Greta saw direct evidence of Wilcox abusing Billy, but she saw hints of it every day. ‘I was directly across from their bedroom. So each time Mrs Wilcox was out, Billy would get taken into the room … If it wasn’t in the house it was in the truck, if it wasn’t in the truck it was in the church. So it was all the time with Billy.’
Billy confided in Greta several times. During one of these chats she told him that if he wanted the abuse to stop he would have to tell Mrs Wilcox. Billy did. ‘And basically he got told to stop being a silly boy.’
After a year or so Greta left the home. She spent some time in other children’s homes until, at age 12, she went back to live with her mother. She never saw Billy again and doesn’t know what became of him. ‘I had heard he had died. I don’t know whether he had issues or not. But the bulk of our people do, that were in that home.’
Since then Greta has kept the abuse mostly to herself, except where she thinks that talking about it can do some good for other people. For instance, she spoke openly about it with her kids because she wanted them to feel comfortable about confiding in her if they ever suffered abuse themselves.
Greta is also keen to speak out against perpetrators. She said that her abuser has never been brought to justice for the crimes he committed against her and other children.
‘He’s been protected from it – he’s in his 80s now – so he’s been protected from his 20s, so for 60 years. Someone’s got to start stopping it. I don’t care if my name gets in the paper, I don’t care if everyone finds out he gave me a disease. I wasn’t at fault. I just want them to lock him up, have the rest of his life in jail. So I’m hoping they just hurry up before he carks it.’