Hannah Mary's story

Hannah was born in the mid-1960s, and immediately adopted by a conservative couple with ‘Victorian’ values.

‘I pretty much lost my childhood at an early age. I had been molested by the age of seven.’ This sexual abuse was perpetrated by a neighbour, Murray.

‘When it first happened it was kept very quiet. Because he put a gun to my head.’ Murray told Hannah he could kill her parents, ‘and basically you’ll live with me, and this [the abuse] will happen every day. Or, you see me once a week, and I won’t kill your parents or your dog’. Hannah did not tell anyone what Murray was doing, so the abuse continued.

As she got older, Hannah realised she was homosexual.

‘My father actually said to welfare, "You told us it [Hannah] was alright. There’s a defect, now fix it". They were my adopted parents. That was my first introduction into welfare.’

Welfare sent her to ‘psychiatric counselling ... to rectify my sexuality’. During this counselling she disclosed the abuse by Murray. She later found out her father knew about it at this time ‘but felt it was better to leave it as it was’. People have asked her if this abuse ‘is the reason why’ she is homosexual. ‘No, it’s not’.

When she was 12, Hannah was running away because of the treatment at home, and was placed into the care of the welfare department. She was sent to a receiving centre, but ‘needless to say, I became a constant runaway’.

In her mid-teens, Hannah ended up in a government-run hostel for teenage girls. This facility was opposite a park, ‘which was frequented by men – and girls working on their own. We had a couple of prostitution parlours nearby as well’.

One day Hannah went out from the hostel to seek employment, as she had been instructed to do by staff. ‘It was on the way home that a car stopped, and this person said, "Get in". It was like nup, I’m not – I don’t do that, you know. I’m on my way home. And he said, "Get in the fucking car".’

Hannah presumes this man thought she was a sex worker. The situation became violent. ‘Once inside the car he said to me that, "You’re only a kid ... They’re not going to ask questions if they find your body in the street, you know"...

‘He opened the glove box. There was a gun, police badge, and the siren. He says, "Now you will do what I fucking tell you".'

The police officer then sexually assaulted her.

Hannah thinks she was likely in a state of shock when she returned to the hostel. However nobody asked how she was. She never disclosed this assault to them, as ‘no-one really did care’.

During her time in care, Hannah’s education suffered. One of the facilities she lived in ‘had its own teaching program, which was teaching women how to be domestics and housewives. How to iron clothes, how to boil an egg, how to make toast, how to set a table ... They’re social graces I guess, for a woman who’s chained to a sink’.

Despite still being a state ward, Hannah was allowed to leave the hostel to go and live with her older girlfriend, who physically abused her. Hannah became dependent on heroin and methamphetamine, and has spent time in prison. She attempted suicide a number of times, and told the Commissioner that the sexual abuse has impacted on her capacity for physical intimacy.

While in jail Hannah reported the assault by the police officer to staff, and other police came to the correctional centre to speak with her about it. She did not feel confident making a report against a police officer while she was herself incarcerated however, so nothing further has happened with this matter.

Recently Hannah went to Murray’s house and physically assaulted him. Even though she received a fine, ‘going and hitting the guy that molested me, that was really good ... I was vulnerable, and I couldn’t defend myself. He’s now vulnerable’.

She advised the police of his earlier sexual abuse of her but they said ‘at the moment it’s hearsay’, and it has not been investigated any further.

Hannah has not taken any civil action. She has undergone specialist sexual assault counselling as part of a prison program, but this program has now been discontinued.

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