Jackie was born into a large and strict Catholic family in Queensland in the late 1950s. She was a ‘very naive’ child who rarely saw her father, and was never close to her mother.
A turning point in Jackie’s life came in her early teens when her mother sat her and a sister down for ‘the sex talk’. For some reason, the talk triggered something between Jackie and her mother, and the two started to fight verbally and physically. A few months later, Jackie’s mother shunned her, and had her placed in a psychiatric hospital west of Brisbane. This occurred in the early 1970s.
Jackie was certified insane, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and placed into a locked adult ward. She was also immediately put on the contraceptive pill. She ‘had no idea’ what the pill did but in hindsight can see that the prescription was pre-emptive action that anticipated the sexual abuse she would experience. During her five-year period of hospitalisation, she was also often ‘pumped’ with heavy medication.
The only other child in Jackie’s ward was another girl called Molly. Rather than receive an education, they ‘did all the work’, such as cleaning and laundry, and were made to care for older and immobile patients. Jackie recalled the staff being horrible to disabled patients who they left sitting in their own faeces before they made Jackie clean up the mess.
Whenever Jackie walked passed the common room, the staff, who were mostly men, would call out to her and taunt her. She was also made to shower in front of them. ‘I couldn’t be a teenager with those men watching me’, she said.
Jackie was molested and raped by two staff members, David Tenner and Oscar Rents, over a two-year period. Whenever Tenner, who had a key to her room, visited her at night, Jackie was ‘terrified’ because she never knew whether he would molest her, rape her, or just stand in her room.
Jackie and Molly – who had also been sexually abused – tried to report the sexual abuse to Sister Mary who regularly visited the ward, but the Sister ‘wasn’t interested’. Given the strict staff and their harsh punishments, and her small town fear of ‘people finding out’ and thinking she was ‘crazy’, Jackie decided that it was best not to tell anyone else.
About two years after her admission, Jackie fell pregnant to another patient. When the baby was born, the staff ‘took it off’ her and forced her back to work. Jackie does not know what happened to her child.
In her early 20s, Jackie and another patient ran away from the hospital. They moved to a town in New South Wales and got married, but her husband became abusive and violent, so she left him a few years later.
In her mid-20s, Jackie told a counsellor about her experience of sexual abuse, and found the act of disclosing very helpful. However, her subsequent discovery that she should never have been labelled ‘insane’ or ‘schizophrenic’ was immensely upsetting. Jackie now takes medication for anxiety, and sees a doctor regularly.
In the mid-1990s, Jackie reported Tenner and Rents to Queensland police. The officer told her that Tenner was dead, but that they would speak to Rents and ‘get him’ if they could. However, nothing further seems to have been done.
Jackie is now in her late 50s. She has had a number of relationships with men, but her flashbacks of the sexual abuse made her unable to be intimate them. ‘I can’t have sex. I just can’t. I can’t be with anyone’, she said. ‘It ruined my life. I have not had a normal life.’
These days, Jackie is ‘happy on her own’, but believes that she would not be in her current position if she hadn’t been wrongly certified insane and hospitalised as a teenager.
As well as telling her own story, Jackie came to the Commission to tell the story of Molly who has since passed away.