In recounting her experience of being sexually abused as a 16-year-old, Huan said she was acting not only for herself but for any other people who might not be able to come forward and tell their stories to the Royal Commission.
‘Also for those whose life was so drastically changed that they are not the person that they could have been’, she said. ‘I’m here so that change could be made in Australian society so as to better protect children from abuse and rape, and also to hope that change can be made within the police force so that the procedures for reporting the crime is not so brutal - given that I was faced with institutional racism and corruption when I did come forward and report the rape to the police.’
In the 1980s, Huan was attending martial arts class when she was sexually abused by one of the staff who worked at the training centre. Before the assault Huan had been aware that some ‘perverted people’ at the centre had ‘fantasises about having sex with a woman of Asian heritage’.
Huan thought she was more vulnerable to the abuse because at the time she was rebelling against her parents and their ‘stifled, oppressive culture’.
‘Even though my parents did well in their work, we were also from a disadvantaged background in that I didn’t have many friends and families around, and for some time I grew up in poverty. I was isolated from the girls at [the school] where I attended and felt that I wanted to be around people who were Western’, Huan said.
Huan didn’t tell her parents or anyone at school about the abuse. ‘When I was raped I felt that I could not burden my peers with the poison that I’d been tainted with’, she said.
For many years Huan didn’t report the abuse but in the 2010s she was sexually assaulted by an ex-partner. At the time of notifying police about that assault, she also made a formal report about the worker at the martial arts centre.
The worker was interviewed by police and admitted having sex with Huan, but told them it was consensual. It was on that basis, Huan said, that police decided not to pursue the matter further. They also declined to charge her ex-partner with the later assault.
Huan told the Commissioner she believed inaction by police was part of a wider culture of racism within the service. ‘I felt my skin crawl with the racism exuded by the police taking the statements and handling the case’, she said. Subsequent attempts by her to have the case re-examined had been unsuccessful.
As a way of coping, Huan tried to block out memories of the abuse, and during her adult years she’d been ‘highly suicidal’.
‘I repressed it. I also suffered shock and dissociation and trauma for over a decade without really realising it. I developed borderline personality disorder as a result of the abuse and violence and not being able to touch, talk to people about it. And struggling to talk to my own parents about things. So during that time I was quite repressed. Also the fact that guys joked about rape at uni made me feel less inclined to reporting that it had happened to me.
‘I was unable to really socialise with people. I dissociated quite a lot and then I was bullied for not being clever enough even though I graduated with an extremely high TER. I was treated like I was stupid for a long time because I was so silent, and I was silent because I was dealing with my trauma. I rationalised to myself that life could move on, I could progress, but for the entire period I was suicidal. I did not on many occasions act on it. Once or twice I did try to.’
Huan had had significant contact with police, ‘the judiciary’ and health care workers over the years. She’d had few positive experiences, and numerous negative ones, particularly when the police charged her after she’d tried to alert other people to the actions of the worker and her ex-partner. She remained disturbed at her treatment by police.
‘Specifically my recommendation is that any police officer who makes it into [sexual assault work] be thoroughly investigated for their personal characteristics and attributes and be screened using psychological tests through and through so that they are really good, open honest police officers there for the victim, not there for themselves.’