Jamie grew up in Canberra in a family where there was domestic violence and ‘tampering with children’. She told the Commissioner, ‘My uncle was a known, convicted paedophile but they still let him under our roof’.
When Jamie started crying at school one day, the teacher asked if there was violence at home. ‘I said yeah there’s heaps of violence. I’m getting bashed left, right and centre.’
The teacher organised for Jamie to move into a refuge. At 13, Jamie was the youngest girl there and she quickly started hanging out with girls who were 16 or 17. One of these was a girl named Chantelle.
Shortly after Jamie arrived, Chantelle got a payment from welfare and decided to go out and celebrate. Jamie joined in and soon found herself at Chantelle’s brother’s place where she met three men who were all in their early 20s. The men took Jamie and Chantelle to buy alcohol then everyone moved down to the river to drink.
At some point the men asked how old Jamie was, and she told them she was 13. It didn’t make any difference. One of the men, Lucas, pressed Jamie for sex. She said, ‘I did give Lucas permission to have intercourse with me. I shouldn’t have, I was only 13. We drove away and I fell asleep in the back seat of the car; I can’t remember nothing. And then we went back to where they were and he dragged me out of the car, woke me up and chucked me to his mates’. Jamie was then assaulted by the other two men.
Later the men drove Jamie and Chantelle to a spot near Chantelle’s mum’s house. The two girls tried to sneak into the house but Chantelle’s mum woke up and kicked Jamie out into the street. ‘I ended up in the gutter and I woke up in the early hours of the morning, frost all over me, and I went back to the refuge, and I looked down and seen blood on these grey tracksuit pants. I just had a bath and I felt dirty and disgusting.’
None of the staff at the refuge asked Jamie what had happened. She said they knew her clothes were stained with blood but they never offered to get new ones for her, and so she ended up washing and re-wearing the same bloodstained underwear for months. The only way she managed to get new underwear was by stealing it.
To cope with what she’d been through, Jamie tried to ‘bottle it up’. But to make the strategy work she needed some artificial help. ‘I turned to drugs and alcohol. I hit the alcohol really big. … I went from alcohol to marijuana. I fought the other drugs for years and years and years and then I eventually tried heroin. Me own aunty was the first one to inject a needle into me.’
Eventually, with the help of her partner, Jamie managed to get off the drugs. She said she’s put her partner through hell but ‘he’s put up with me through thick and thin’.
Jamie said she would prefer not to have to drag her partner into all of her problems, but she often has to because she doesn’t trust the government support systems. She’s had some bad experiences over the years. When she was 30 she reported her abusers to police, but nothing was ever done. When her daughter was little they took her away from Jamie and put her into a home where she ended up being sexually abused.
Jamie’s daughter is now a grown woman and still suffering from the complex effects of abuse. ‘She thinks it’s her fault. Just like for many years I blamed myself.’
These days, Jamie no longer blames herself. She said that when she was 30 she realised that the ‘consent’ she gave to Lucas wasn’t consent at all. ‘I was 13’, she said. ‘I was under the influence of alcohol.’
Now what Jamie wants is to take care of her partner, her daughter and her own mental health. ‘I’d like counselling to heal. I really need to heal. I need to cut these scars out and heal.’