Juliana's story

Juliana grew up outside Sydney and in the early 1980s, when she was four years old, moved with her newly-separated mother into public housing. She was sexually abused from a young age by a family member and by the age of 14, had experimented with drugs and alcohol.

As a teenager, she lived briefly with her father but was evicted after an attempt at taking her own life, because her step-mother worried about Juliana’s effect on her young child.

An aunt and uncle arranged placement in a youth rehabilitation program, but Juliana got drunk on the premises and was quickly suspended from the program. In the early 1990s, she was admitted to a detoxification program for young people and there met drug and alcohol counsellor, Ernst de Graaf.

Juliana told the Commissioner that she participated in the two-week program three times. De Graaf became her outreach support worker and visited her at the home of an aunt and uncle with whom she was living. Once the relationship was established, de Graaf started to sexually abuse Juliana.

‘He was telling me his story’, Juliana said. ‘How he used to be on drugs and you know, how he recovered, saying that I needed to be loved. It was quite obvious from my past – I told him I’d been sexually abused. I disclosed a lot of my growing up past. He was also providing drugs. He was providing marijuana and stuff like that. He was also liaising with my family and it had been very strained with my family.’

Within a few months de Graaf had isolated Juliana, convincing her family she wouldn’t get well if she stayed in New South Wales. He recommended a drug rehabilitation facility in Victoria and Juliana’s uncle bought a plane ticket and arranged for her move. In the facility, Juliana was bashed, raped and contracted hepatitis C.

Returning to Sydney, Juliana was referred to a youth refuge where she again encountered de Graaf. She knew of other girls under 16 years of age he was having sex with, and believed he was part of an organised operation providing drugs to young girls in return for sex.

In subsequent years, Juliana continued to cross paths with de Graaf. In the mid-1990s, he came to her workplace and supplied her with drugs that precipitated a psychosis. The following year, she moved away from Sydney and contact with de Graaf stopped. She’d never reported him to police and didn’t know if he was still working with young people.

Juliana first disclosed the abuse by de Graaf to a sexual assault worker in the early 2000s. The worker said that she’d have to make a report about the allegation, but Juliana wasn’t questioned again and didn’t know what, if anything, had transpired from the report.

Following the difficulties in her youth, she’d often found it hard to manage everyday life as an adult. She’d been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and at different times had exhibited bi-polar and borderline personality disorder symptoms. Recent support through community mental health services had been helpful, as was the ongoing belief in her of her husband. Nevertheless, he found it difficult she said, when she ‘left’ or dissociated.

‘I’m spending a lot of time on just doing the right thing for me, sort of anxiety related stuff’, she said. ‘The psychologist I’ve got has done a mental health plan plus trauma stuff, so yeah. … I do shut down but when you shut down from the pain you also shut down from the love and nothing gets backwards and forwards. When you shut down from the pain, the good can’t get in so that’s really hard for my husband.’

Content updating Updating complete