Judi, an Aboriginal woman in her mid-20s, was taken out of her violent home and fostered at the age of 10 with a family in north-east New South Wales.
Not long after she arrived, her older foster brother Perry started to sexually abuse her.
‘He used to get me to go in his room, we used to play hide-and-go-seek till he jumped in the bed with me … He’d tell my brother to go out, and keep me in there, and take my clothes off me and try to stick his private into me … I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone and I could get in big trouble too.’
One day Judi’s foster father caught Perry kissing and touching her. ‘He slapped him and booted him up the arse.’ Her dad then asked Judi if she was okay, but that seemed to be the end of it. Judi doesn’t think her foster dad did anything about Perry’s abuse.
Judi didn’t report the abuse because she was scared by Perry’s threats. She was in an impossible position at school as well – her foster mother was employed as a teacher’s assistant there, so any problems with Judi would be referred to her.
Judi ran away to her mother’s home a few times but was brought back. The Department of Child Services (DOCS) never asked her why she was running away and she can’t remember any case workers visiting the house.
The abuse ended when she was about 13 when she went to live with her aunt. However, when she started going to high school, Perry would be waiting for her afterwards.
‘He used to try and take me after school … I’d just run off.’ Judi told her mother that something had happened, ‘but I didn’t say his name’.
Judi was also molested by a cousin and started having nightmares about the abuse. Judi says that at 13 she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has been on medication ever since. She didn’t tell anyone in hospital what had happened.
‘I tried to forget about it but then I started thinking, "What if this still happened to other foster kids that goes there?"’
For that reason Judi is keen to explore the option of talking to the police. Judi also told the Commissioner that an apology from DOCS would be important to her.
‘I suffered a lot from it, physically, emotionally and mentally … I just started to get really depressed and started slicing. And I used to think that I wasn’t worth it and everything.’
Judi no longer has nightmares and when the memory returns she blocks it out. She has a mental health team visit her in jail but she doesn’t talk about the flashbacks.
Judi recommended that biological parents get more support before their children are removed from them and put in care. She also thinks that all people in a foster home should be checked for safety and not just the parents.
‘Foster carers, if they know that things are going on, to tell DOCS that they can’t have people in their care … If their son or their daughter touches somebody else up, to not take people in their care.’