Heidi's story

‘They didn’t want anything to do with me because I was black.’

With this sole memory of her parents, Heidi was placed into a state-run children’s home in regional Victoria in the early 1950s. There she was sexually abused by her carers, Mary and Rodney Thomas, who fostered her a year or two later.

Heidi moved to her foster parents’ house, which was within the grounds of a correctional centre. She was expected to do most of the chores around the house, and was sexually and psychologically abused by both Mary and Rodney on multiple occasions. She was also sexually abused by a male relative of the Thomases whose name she cannot recall.

As a form of punishment, Heidi recalled that ‘they locked me up overnight in the cells and then just left me there’. The couple also regularly locked her in a room in the house. Because she was getting a ‘good Catholic upbringing’, Heidi said that she took her punishment ‘as a Catholic girl’, and always believed that it was all her fault.

Heidi was young and frightened, and had ‘no one to talk to’.

‘I had no knowledge of anything being different. I took everything as it was’, she said, so the thought of reporting the Thomases to welfare never crossed her mind.

The abuse stopped when Heidi married in her late teens. Her husband treated her ‘rough’, so she left that marriage and raised her kids as a single mum. She furthered her education, and worked in the community sector. ‘I did a lot of good work, I know that’, she said.

Heidi remembered ‘the things they did to me or made me do’ with distress. Her memories and dreams and feelings have long been troubled, and she has suffered from anxiety, depression and insomnia.

About 10 years ago, when Heidi was in her 50s, she first spoke about the abuse to a trusted relative. She then disclosed to a psychologist, and experienced a great relief that restored her sleep and put her on ‘the right road’.

‘She was really, really good. I wouldn’t be where I am, I don’t believe … if it wasn’t for her … She tried to imply into my head it was never, never, never my fault, but it took me a long time to get that into my head.’

Heidi said she came to speak to the Commission because ‘I needed someone to hear me’. She has experienced ‘too much pain’, and has felt unable to go on, but knows that, by telling her story, she is helping to prevent the abuse of other children who are taken into care.

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