Jody was sexually abused by some of her peers while growing up on a government-run Aboriginal Mission in Queensland in the 1960s and 1970s. She said that one of the worst things was the way the abuse degraded her sense of self-worth.
‘The people involved felt that they had a sense of right or entitlement or capacity to do what they did ... that I was invisible, that I was worthless.’
At the time she didn’t know who to talk to about the abuse or even how to talk about it.
‘I didn’t know what had happened so I couldn’t vocalise what had happened … I know as an adult but as a child I didn’t know. And at that time, did I think it was wrong? I felt it was wrong. I did think it was wrong but more that I was going to be in trouble, that I had put myself in that position.’
Jody left the mission at 13 and moved to Brisbane where she saw out two more years of high school before joining the workforce. Over the next few decades she worked a variety of jobs and raised a family.
Asked if she considers herself ‘a survivor’, Jody said that she doesn’t like the term. Some of her siblings, who also grew up in the mission, have since died and she rejects the suggestion that they weren’t ‘strong enough to survive’. Also, she added, ‘I don’t know if I survived’.
Every day Jody carries the burden of bad memories and lost opportunities. She feels the weight of the abuse holding her back from what she could be.
‘It’s like an elephant that has the chain around his leg. And he’s got a metal stake and it’s only this far in the ground, and the elephant doesn’t know that he can pull it out, he has the strength to pull it out. And even if you put a rope around the elephant’s foot and tie it to that same stake he doesn’t know that he has the power to remove that stake if he wants to.’
And yet Jody has still managed to keep herself together every day, working hard and looking after her family. What got her through, she thinks, is a tough streak that was there inside her from a very young age. It first surfaced one day in the dorm when she was punished for something her sisters did.
‘I was responsible for them because I was the older sister. I was given a hiding. I was okay with the hiding. I was being responsible for my sisters. The person giving the hiding wanted to ensure that I was hurt. To cry. And I refused to cry. I don’t know where that came from.’
With that tough streak driving her on, Jody is always looking for opportunities to improve herself and the community around her. After telling her story, she asked the Commissioner to provide her with some facts about the broad impact of child sexual abuse.
‘The reason I ask is that I’ll be able to say, “Where do I fit in that spectrum of issues for kids?”. And that will help me be a better grandparent. Because I can’t do that for my kids but I can do it for my grandkids.’