‘I don’t know any dates or anything like that. I spent a whole lifetime numbing it one way or another.’
In the early 1970s, when Ilana was in her mid-teens, she was sent to a girls’ home in New South Wales. She was given the ‘privileged’ job of doing desk duties in the office of deputy superintendent Kevin Bingham.
In the six months Ilana was in the home, Bingham often sexually abused her. ‘He used to come up behind me and lean forward, rubbing himself against me. That led to other stuff.’
Shorlty after Ilana’s arrival, Bingham forced her to masturbate him and perform oral sex. He then forced penetrative sex upon her. Once, when Ilana started crying, Bingham grabbed her by the hair and hit her face against the wall, threatening worse if she didn’t keep quiet. He told her that no one would believe her if she spoke about the abuse because she was ‘the criminal’.
Despite Bingham’s threats, Ilana disclosed the abuse to her mother during one of her visits. However, Ilana said that ‘she didn’t believe me, she thought I was just trying to get out and cause trouble.’ Ilana also told her sister, then tried to forget all about it.
‘It was something I put behind me because there was no use in telling anyone. Nobody’s going to believe me.’
Almost immediately after leaving the girls’ home, Ilana was imprisoned for break and enter offences. She was in and out of jail until the early 80s when, in her mid-20s, she made the decision to ‘not to live like that anymore’.
The sexual abuse continued to have an impact on Ilana. She self-harmed by cutting for a long time, not out of a wish to die, she said, but because it helped with her feelings of ‘being numb’. She has also received treatment for bi-polar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and struggled with substance abuse.
Three or four years ago, Ilana’s friends alerted her to media reports about the extent of sexual abuse in the girls’ home. It was upsetting for her to see television footage of Bingham being ‘older, so smug’. She had never reported Bingham’s abuse to NSW Police, but is now considering doing so. ‘I want him to pay for what he did. See how he likes it inside [prison].’
Ilana’s friends and partner encouraged her to contact the Royal Commission. ‘I thought it was just me [who was abused]. Forty years ago things were hush, hush. If you forgot it and let it go, you don’t have to deal with it.’
She wouldn’t have come forward if she hadn’t seen the television program. ‘I don’t think I could have done it on my own, or started something I wouldn’t be able to finish.’
‘It really has affected my whole life, through and through … Knowing that somebody believes me – Out of all of this, that’s the best I could have got out of today, knowing that somebody believes me.’