Karolyn grew up in a strict Baptist family with parents who were ‘elderly’ and ‘frail’. At 14, she couldn’t cope with their strictness and left home, making her way to a women’s refuge in a nearby Tasmanian city. There, staff deemed Karolyn too young to stay at the refuge, and after child protection staff became involved, placement was arranged for her in a government-run girls’ home.
Arriving in the home in the 1990s, Karolyn found the couple in charge of the home ‘good people’ but each morning girls would be dropped at another facility and left there without any supervision.
At the facility were ‘some older young adults’ including several who, to Karolyn, ‘were frightening’.
Scott Duncan was a frequent visitor to the facility and one day he took Karolyn aside and told her that he’d kill her parents if she didn’t do what he said.
He then took her to a house and over three days gave her drugs and alcohol and repeatedly raped her. He then dropped her back at the home where Karolyn told staff and rang the police.
Several officers came to take her to the station for a formal interview but when she mentioned Duncan’s name, they turned the car around and took her back to the home. The officers told her that it was a consensual relationship and despite her allegation and age took no further action.
Karolyn told others about the assaults including the couple in the home, child protection staff and various other people, but after no one believed her she ‘realised nobody was going to help’.
Unbeknown to Karolyn, Duncan had an extensive criminal record and was well known to police. She became pregnant as a result of the rapes and her child initially lived with foster carers before being placed with Karolyn’s parents.
At different times Duncan found Karolyn living in other places and again raped her. She took out numerous Apprehended Violence Orders, but the thing he was charged with in relation to her was a minor assault after he’d punched her in the arm. Karolyn thought there was ‘high influence’ and authorities ‘didn’t want to deal’ with Duncan.
In subsequent years Karolyn was helped by staff from Legal Aid to find her welfare records, but there was no record of any of her reports of sexual assault.
She read to the Commissioner from a statement she’d written:
‘As the years passed so did light. Maybe my back was turned as it began to glow. I’ve woken up to see the ever-fading years of my life, the best years of my life locked into an unchanging cycle of endless disappointment. As my voice became lost in my screams for mercy first and justice second, that too became lost. Every day always ready for yet more harm to come my way, just as it failed to catch me unaware and claim a small victory for myself. The child vanished leaving a stunted soul. There was no recognition of either childhood or womanhood as it ceases to exist.
‘Life a fragile thing, such a precious thing, passes on so quickly. Some souls are forsaken by others to ever have a single opportunity to make the most of it. In the end everyone deserves a beginning. I think the time has come for others to allow the path they may tread, leaving behind their darkest day.’
When she finished reading, Karolyn added:
‘That’s a thank you to you. I know it sounds a bit morose and a little bit depressing but at the end of it, it’s the path we tread. We’ve got to leave behind the darkest day.’