Joslyn was born into a violent Tasmanian household in the early 1970s. Her father beat her mother severely and regularly. Eventually, Joslyn’s mother escaped with the children but by then she was too physically and mentally damaged to look after them properly. She became neglectful and abusive, so when Joslyn was about five or six, she and her siblings were put into foster care.
Over the next seven years Joslyn was shunted through nine different foster homes. At many of these homes she suffered physical and sexual abuse.
The first home was run by a formidable woman named ‘Aunty Nel’. The day Joslyn arrived, Nel called her in for dinner. Joslyn sat at the table where the food was already laid out and tucked in straight away. She didn’t know that she was supposed to wait for everyone to say a prayer before the meal.
Nel dragged Joslyn to the toilet and forced her to vomit up the food she’d eaten. She told Joslyn that she’d get no food until she learned to say the prayer. Later Joslyn drifted off to sleep in her bunk, feeling hungry.
A male staff member woke her in the middle of the night and asked if she wanted something to eat. Joslyn followed him into the kitchen where he fed her chocolate biscuits. When he sexually abused her she didn’t understand what was going on.
‘I remember like food dropping on me. I remember him, “Oh! You’re dirty”. Like that sort of thing, and “I’ll get a change of clothes for you”. You know, you’re a kid. You just think you’re being looked after. So I didn’t realise.’
In the years that followed, Joslyn grew up very quickly. She became angry, distrustful and violent. Often with good reason. When she was about nine she tried to lock her bedroom door. Resenting this, the house father got a drill and took the whole door off its hinges. Joslyn broke the window with her elbow and picked up a shard of glass.
‘Because that wasn’t the first time. I was ruined then. I had come to a point where I was a psychopath. I was scared. Knowing what I know now, that was my defence mechanism. I’m like, “Get the eff away from me. I’ll stab you. I’ll slit your throat”.’
At 13, Joslyn ended up at a home run by the Salvation Army. The only other girl there was a 16-year-old named Linda who had an intellectual disability. On a few occasions Linda tried to sexually abuse Joslyn. Joslyn now knows that the girl had learned these behaviours from a Salvation Army officer who abused her several times every week, but at the time Joslyn was more frightened than understanding and she ‘dobbed on’ Linda to a female officer.
The officer threw the two girls into a room together and encouraged them to fight, which they did. Later Joslyn was stripped down to her underpants and left alone in a room. The same male officer who’d been abusing Linda poked his head in the door and asked nicely if he could come in to chat. Joslyn thought he wanted to talk about the fight.
‘He goes, “Can you tell me what happened?” and whatever, and then he just pushed me head into the pillow sort of thing. I couldn’t do anything, and I was face down. And then he did it to me.’
Joslyn told the staff what the male officer had done to her. It wasn’t the first time she’d reported an incident of sexual abuse. Joslyn wasn’t shy about disclosing what had been done to her, and often screamed and swore about it. No one ever believed her.
A short while after the rape Joslyn left the home. She lived on the street and at a women’s shelter for a while, then ended up staying in a caravan with a 21-year-old man. The police eventually removed her but by then it was too late.
‘I remember going to the doctor and him saying, “Do a wee in a jar. Please can you do a wee in a jar for me, Joslyn”. Then he said “Love, you’re pregnant”. And I said, “No I’m not. I haven’t done anything wrong. I didn’t even take all my clothes off”. Right. That’s actually what I said.’
At 15, Joslyn was living with her new baby in a flat that the police had arranged for her. Several nights a week the father of her child would get drunk, hurl beer bottles through her window, break into the flat and rape her. When she reported him to police they ignored her. Except for one officer. He was a reliable man who would sit in Joslyn’s kitchen at night so she’d feel safe enough to sleep.
But the attacks kept happening, so one night Joslyn took matters into her own hands. When her former partner came around and started hitting her, she bent over, pretending that he’d hurt her more than he really had. When he was distracted she took a poker and started beating him. She kept on thrashing him until a neighbour intervened. After that, her ex never touched her again.
Joslyn went on to form a stable relationship with a good man, and to have some happy, healthy kids. They’ve given her a new perspective on her life.
‘I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had five beautiful kids that I’ve wrapped my whole world around. They’ve got me through. That’s everything. That’s my whole world. I had something of my own.’