Jeanne was born in Victoria in the 1960s. She has an intellectual disability which left her vulnerable to many different forms of abuse.
‘I come from a background of physical, emotional and sexual child abuse myself. I copped the physical and emotional child abuse from my mother. I was picked on and bashed up at school. I was sexually abused by my father, my father’s half-brother, this particular half-brother or uncle’s mate who’s like my brother-in-law, my father’s cousin. I had an abortion to that particular uncle when I was 16.’
After her mother discovered Jeanne had been raped by her uncle, she reported the abuse to police. However, ‘because she smelled of alcohol they ignored her, so nothing was done’.
As an adult, Jeanne has had three children, all of whom were taken without her consent and placed into care. She told the Commissioner that she was not provided with any support before her children were removed and has suffered discrimination from the police and child protection agency in spite of them being aware of her situation.
‘I’ve had a unpleasant life myself. My own three children were taken from me. Cast as a child basher in the eyes of child protection. I accidentally hurt my two older children when they were little babies, and I admit it, to the accident. And over the years I’ve been treated like dirt by the child protection workers and police.’
Jeanne is married to Louis, who also has an intellectual disability and whose son Danny is from a previous relationship. When Danny was six he was removed from his biological mother due to neglect and abuse, and placed in foster care.
‘That night he was actually sexually abused. The child’s mother was told the next day at courts when it went to court. My husband wasn’t told. The child’s mother was told to keep it hush hush and not say anything. And then a few weeks later or something she got the child back and that’s when she informed my husband. And I contacted the police … They’re making out it was another foster child and that the other foster child was under age, which I don’t believe.’
After Jeanne reported the abuse the matter was investigated, but no further action was taken because the abuser was allegedly another child. Danny was removed from that foster home and placed in another. ‘What we don’t understand is why the department kept it hush hush. I believe too that it could’ve even been the actual welfare worker.’
Danny, like his father and stepmother, also has a learning disability. He is still living in out-of-home care but has been moved around repeatedly because his carers are unable to cope with his special needs.
‘Ever since he started school he hasn’t had a stable environment and they’re making out from their reports that Danny is too much for the foster people to handle. And so he’s constantly moved from one environment to another, if you know what I mean. Not being allowed to adjust or settle.’
Jeanne also noted that since the abuse Danny is ‘now aggressive and violent himself’.
‘Just because people may not have any physical marks or injuries, a person can be abusing different ways, forms and fashions, if you know what I mean.’
Jeanne believes that, because she is known to the police, her concerns about Danny’s welfare have not been taken seriously. She believes that the foster care system needs to be reappraised and there should be a more thorough scrutiny of all people who come into contact with children.
‘As a system it should actually be looked into. Where your children are put, who they’re put with, and even adoption to be looked into and that. Hospitals, schools, family and friends, you name it … There’s a lot of changes that need to be made. The system is letting people down …
‘I feel very proud of how I’ve tried to protect my little stepson.’