Janet’s parents divorced when she was a baby and she spent her early years living in Brisbane with her mother and brother. Because of Janet’s intellectual and learning disabilities, her mother found it difficult to work and look after her daughter, so she was placed in a children’s home when she was eight years old. She lived in the home from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.
Janet told the Commissioner, ‘That home was awful … I hate it. I hate it. I used to run away all the time. They’d push you in the damn toilet when you played up and all that kind of jazz. So yes, it was awful’.
Some of the staff at the home were ‘mean and nasty’ and she was bullied by other children there. She remembers being pushed around, and suffering a broken arm when someone shoved her off a swing.
As a teenager, Janet was fostered by Mr and Mrs Carlisle, a couple with three children. While living in the Carlisle’s house, Janet was often hit with a leather belt by Mrs Carlisle, and she was sexually abused by Mr Carlisle.
The sexual abuse began when Mrs Carlisle spent a week in hospital, and Mr Carlisle began going into Janet’s bedroom and touching her genitals. After Mrs Carlisle returned home, Mr Carlisle would go into Janet’s room after Mrs Carlisle and their children had gone to bed. ‘I didn’t like Mr Carlisle. He was a bastard. Sorry for my language, but he was.’
After Mr Carlisle raped Janet she needed medical treatment. ‘I had to go to the doctor about it and get it checked and that kind of stuff … I had to go to the doctor to … if he hurt me … if he went inside of me or something, and then I kicked the doctor because it was painful.’ The doctor didn’t ask Janet about the abuse, and nothing was done about it.
Janet told the Commissioner Mr Carlisle said ‘Don’t tell nobody. It was our secret … I couldn’t say to Mrs Carlisle that your husband raped me. I couldn’t say that. I had to keep it to myself’.
‘I used to run away … I didn’t want to get hurt … I used to run away so they’d get the police all the time and I still ran away.’ Eventually Janet told her mother about the abuse, and although she left the Carlisle’s home, once again nothing was done about it.
No case worker or youth worker visited Janet while she was in the home or in foster care. ‘Didn’t have nobody. Only my family and that’s why it was so bad.’
Janet and her brother used to visit their grandparents during the holidays, and Janet was sexually abused by her grandfather when she was 16. ‘When my grandfather abused me my grandmother did not believe me … she wanted to go to the bingo and I wanted to come with her … and I had to stay back with my grandfather … So my grandfather was touching me in bed and that kind of stuff and it was so awful, and I couldn’t say “No, get off me”. I just couldn’t do it.’
Janet later discovered that her grandfather had abused a number of his grandchildren, but no one ever reported him to the police. When Janet and her mother told her grandmother about the abuse she said she didn’t believe them, and that if it went to court it would be Janet’s word against her grandfather’s, so Janet felt ‘I could not do it’.
Janet told the Commissioner that the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr Carlisle and her grandfather made her ‘feel like I was dirty, shit. I was upset and I never trust old men. They are stinky little … they are. I’m so sorry. They are’.
Janet is supported by an organisation that works with people with intellectual and learning difficulties who have experienced sexual abuse or other crimes. She attends a women’s social group that they run, and has been seeing one of their counsellors for a long time. This counsellor has ‘helped me a lot ... She helped me get over the fear and all of that’. It was a staff member from this organisation who encouraged Janet to contact the Royal Commission.
Janet told the Commissioner, ‘I wish it didn’t happen to me’, and she regrets not reporting the abuse to the police at the time. ‘I just couldn’t find nobody to listen to me … I was so angry at myself too … but today, I think I’m feeling good.’