Ines’s parents separated when she was quite young and she went to live with her mother. However, ‘My mum then abandoned me when I was 13, so I went to my dad and my grandfather’ in rural Victoria.
As an adolescent girl in a small country town in the early 1980s, Ines would sometimes misbehave. One day, when she and a friend wagged school, Ines’s friend set fire to some toilet rolls in the public toilets and the girls were caught by the police. Following this incident, Ines was removed from her father’s care and placed in a state youth training centre.
‘I actually got the blame for it because I – how could you explain – I had a wicked tongue … I really fought that it wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me. And like, the police didn't believe me.’
Upon arriving at the centre, Ines found a culture of bullying and harassment from both the staff and the residents.
‘Some of the screws, they’re not nice. Sorry, they’re not … I was the youngest kid there and constantly getting beaten by the other girls … I went in innocent, I didn't come out innocent … I knew nothing about sex. Never even kissed a boy, never had a boyfriend. You'd go in there innocent. You come out, you know everything.’
When she was 14, Ines required surgery and was sent to a local hospital where she stayed for about a week. During her hospitalisation, a male nurse attended to her during wash time and on three occasions abused her by digitally penetrating and fondling her.
After returning to the remand centre, Ines told the one staff member she trusted about the nurse’s actions. The staff member was sympathetic but didn’t take any action or encourage Ines to report it to the police. Meanwhile, the nurse maintained contact with her, so when Ines was 15 she ran away from the training centre and went to live with him.
‘Basically, the guy that molested me also got me out of that place. I wish he hadn't, to tell you the truth … I never saw us in a relationship. I never saw it like that. To me, he was an authority figure, and authority is someone that I am pretty much scared of.’
Ines was only living at the nurse’s home for two nights when he abused her again and afterwards threw her out. ‘He crawled in and done what he did and then dumped me in the streets of Melbourne … This time he used his penis, not his fingers.’
Because Ines’s past interactions with the police had been negative, she did not report the nurse’s abuse and instead lived on the streets for a while.
‘I was too scared to go to the police. I was too scared to go back to [the centre] … The police didn't believe me when I told them I didn't light up the toilet rolls. They're not gonna believe me when I say that … Who's going to believe a 15-year-old girl, compared to a 25, 30-year-old nurse?’
By the time she was 16, Ines became pregnant and went to live in a refuge. The father of her child died, and her child was removed from her care before he was a year old.
‘Welfare stepped in and said I was too young, it was either put him up for adoption or let my mum take him. So my mum ended up looking after him.’
When she was 18 Ines told her father about the nurse’s abuse. He was sympathetic and assured her that the blame lay with the perpetrator and not her, then went on tell his own experience as a victim of sexual abuse. He did not encourage her to report it.
‘I can remember him saying something like, "I think it's too late for you to do anything now" … Slip it under the carpet, get over it. Forget about it … My mum was the same … I probably told her about 10 years after it happened, and then she just told me what happened to her when she was eight. So, yeah. It seems like history just repeats, doesn't it?’
Ines started seeing a counsellor when she was in her 20s to help her cope with numerous psychological issues.
‘I've got attention deficit, hyperactive attention deficit disorder. I've not long been diagnosed with bipolar ... I have seizures that are stress seizures. Yes, I just rock. So much, I wish I had a six foot grave already … I suffer from severe depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia, social phobias; the list goes on and on. I'm scared of people, doesn't matter who it is.’
In spite of her considerable trust issues, Ines still regularly goes to the same counsellor she started seeing in her 20s. ‘I can't go to another counsellor because I just can't open up. Bettina’s had to work very hard to get my trust … I trust her completely. I trust her with my kids. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. I mean, I text this poor lady in the middle of the night if I'm having flashbacks, you know. She's my hero. She's really my hero.’
These days Ines struggles with the concern that the nurse who abused her may have gone on to abuse other people. She has only recently discovered that it is not too late to report him to the police and is currently being supported in doing so.
‘You know how history repeats? I wanted to stop the history repeating, that was the most important thing for me with my children.’