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Holly Jane's story

‘Mum was a bad alcoholic and my father as well. Drug users. Domestic violence.’ Holly was placed in kindred foster care in New South Wales before she turned six. During her first foster placement in the late 1990s, which lasted until she was about 13, Holly was sexually abused by a male relative. Holly commented, ‘It’s become normal to me’.

After the sexual abuse began, Holly ‘started mucking up at school and teachers reported to DOCS and then I went to other foster homes. I’ve been to 36 foster homes all up. After the first foster care, I didn’t really have tolerance for anyone else. So I just misbehaved'.

Holly told the Commissioner, ‘When [the sexual abuse] first happened to me, it made me sick. Sick to my stomach, but I didn’t know why someone that I loved so much could do that as well … It’s kind of made me have trust issues with everyone in my life … Even in relationships, I still have really bad trust issues’.

Holly commented that ‘Since it’s happened, I’ve felt like I’ve lost something and like … I don’t know. I haven’t been the same’.

No one ever asked Holly why she was misbehaving and no one suspected that something was going on. ‘I played very good poker face … They just thought it was me as a kid, like me being disobedient and stuff. But, like it become really normal for me what I was doing. I didn’t know right from wrong, and I didn’t know how to tell anyone.’

Holly is currently in jail, having breached parole conditions in order to spend time with her father before he died. She doesn’t regret spending that time with her father. She handed herself into authorities, rather than stay on the run, and once she has served her time she wants to get out and look after her family.

‘I’m really, really trying. I’m doing educational courses in here, but I’ve changed my whole attitude towards things.’ After being let down so much by her mother over the years, Holly has ‘learnt not to rely on her, but to help her. So like, for me, the tables have turned’.

Other women in jail sometimes talk about sexual abuse, but Holly tries to ‘turn a blind [eye] to it … I just try to avoid the subject. When it’s sprung on me, “Oh, sorry, I couldn’t know what to tell you”. I avoid it. I paint a pretty picture on how my life was, but they don’t know that. I say I had a good upbringing … Sometimes it’s a bit personal to tell anyone’.

Holly approached the Royal Commission because ‘I thought, for all these years, I haven’t told no one, and like I’ve noticed getting things off your chest and that does help, but like, it’s a bit more reliable to tell you, because it’s coming from a professional point of view and you know, it’s like someone that’s not going to destroy me, and bring me down with that. That’s how I feel, anyway’.

Holly told the Commissioner, ‘I couldn’t really care if you didn’t believe me or not, you know, because I know inside me that it’s helping me benefit by getting it out’.

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