Honoria's story

It was the early 1960s when Honoria was taken into care. Her mother was terminally ill, and her father could not care for the children. Shortly after her mother died, her older sister was hit by a car and killed.

Honoria was four years old when she became a state ward. She and her siblings moved to a Salvation Army home in regional Victoria. Their first houseparents, the McNamaras, ‘were nice, they were very nice. They talked to you, they sort of helped you’.

When Honoria was 15 years old, Thomas and Miranda Howard took over the care of the cottage. About six months later, Thomas began sexually abusing Honoria.

She was in bed one night, and felt something moving under her blankets. She saw Thomas sitting by her bed, looking at her, and realised it was his hand she could feel, somewhere on the top of her body.

Honoria asked what he was doing, but he told her to be quiet. He said that if she reported this to anyone, he would deny it. This abuse happened half a dozen times, and he always said this to her.

Mostly he would undo the buttons of her pyjama top, so he could touch her breasts directly. He would tell her to be quiet, or kiss her on the lips to silence her. She remembers he gave sloppy kisses.

Thomas molested Honoria in the bathroom numerous times. One time he took her into his office, on the pretence of helping her with homework.

He undid her shirt, looked at her breasts, and started fondling them. Crying, she told him no, but he ignored her.

Another time, Thomas called her to his room. He threw her onto the bed, and lay down on top of her, kissing her face, necks, lips, and breasts.

Visits from her father were scheduled months ahead by Thomas, and he threatened that if she did not let him sexually abuse her then he would cancel the visit.

Thomas was very controlling, and tried to keep her isolated from other people. He was jealous when she played with friends, particularly boys. When they went on a camp together, he would not let her out of his sight – ‘he just wanted to possess you’.

One day Thomas’ wife, Miranda, came and took her to their quarters. Thomas was there, and it was apparent he had told Miranda that Honoria was ‘all over him’ and ‘couldn’t keep my hands off him’. The couple kept telling her that she was leading Thomas on, and that everything was her fault.

Honoria told Miranda that Thomas used to come into her room and molest her, but Miranda continued calling her a liar. Thomas said that it would always be her word against his.

After this, Honoria resigned herself that there was no way to stop the abuse, and she would just have to comply until she could leave.

Honoria struggled at school. Making friends was hard, as the home was so different from other kids’ lives. She was ostracised and picked on, and a boyfriend even dumped her when she told him where she lived.

When she was 18, she was riding her bike home after netball one day when Thomas pulled up behind her in a car.

He asked her to have sex with him, but she refused, and resisted when he tried to get her into the vehicle. ‘He obviously tried to finish off what he couldn’t get at the home ... He was such a sleaze.’

Traumatised by the death of her mother and sister, and then again by the abuse by Thomas, Honoria attempted suicide a number of times.

She was 11 years old the first time, and decided to drink some industrial detergent used in the home’s kitchen. ‘All of a sudden, I don’t know what it was, it just stopped me.’

She spat out the detergent, and did not tell anyone what she’d planned to do. Another time ‘I decided to play with the traffic’, but the car did not hit her.

Later on she wanted to overdose, but her husband and children returned home unexpectedly, just before she took the pills. ‘So each time I’ve tried, something’s sort of interfered.’

Twenty years ago, Honoria saw a television report about Thomas’ brother, Toby. He was being prosecuted for child sexual abuse offences, including pornography.

She remembered Toby coming to the home, and taking photos of her and other kids. She contacted police, telling them about the photos (and also the abuse by Thomas), but nothing came of it. This was very traumatic, and she attempted suicide again.

In the early 2000s, Honoria filed a police report about the abuse by Thomas. He was living overseas, and they promised to notify her when he returned to Australia.

This did not happen, and Honoria recently discovered that Thomas was back. Though investigations are now underway, the delay caused by the police’s failure to act immediately upon his return is distressing.

Honoria is currently contemplating legal action against the Salvation Army, as Thomas abused her whilst she was in their care. She has engaged with counselling, and also has the support of an organisation for people in care as kids. Still, the abuse has had long-term impacts, which continue to this day.

‘You sort of put a wall up there, sort of thing, so no-one can get close.’ Relationships have ‘been very, very difficult, because you just don’t trust. You just don’t want to be near anyone, and opening up to them’.

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