‘That went on for years. I must have been a really dumb kid because I thought it was normal. Nobody ever said to me that it wasn’t right.’
Katie has no memory of her biological parents. In the mid-1950s when she was three, she was made a ward of the state and placed in an orphanage in Queensland, where she stayed for three years.
When she was six, she was put on a train to go to a placement with foster parents in a different town. Stephen and Heather Grant were an older couple in their 40s, and they cared for Katie, giving her presents and whatever she asked for.
But several months after her arrival, things started to change at the Grants. Stephen started inserting a thick rubber instrument in Katie’s vagina. Katie didn’t understand what was happening, and assumed it was normal. Within months, Stephen started using his penis.
For eight years, Katie was sexually abused by her foster father. No one ever said anything to her about it so she thought that was how families acted. She remembers the abuse occurring in front of Heather many times. She didn’t like being watched by Heather but kept quiet.
In the mid-1960s when she was 14 and in high school, Katie learnt about sex education.
‘Of course, me and my big mouth, said, “I know all about that … That’s something we do in the family”. Nobody ever said to me, “It’s wrong … it should stop”. Even the teacher at the school said nothing … The kids laughed at me.’
It wasn’t until she became involved with her boyfriend that Katie discovered that Stephen’s acts were wrong. She told her boyfriend about the Grants, and he was shocked.
When she was 15 and could no longer stand the abuse, she and her boyfriend ran away. They were caught by the police and Katie told them what had been happening. For the first time, Katie spoke to a staff member from a welfare office, something she didn’t know she could do as a ward of the state. She didn’t even know she was a state ward; she thought she was adopted.
‘Everything just turned upside down, my world was just shattered. I found out then that I had brothers and sisters.’
Katie then officially complained to her welfare officer about Stephen and Heather Grant. The officer told her that she was unwanted and that she should just ‘put up with it’.
‘They never advised me anything. They didn’t say this was wrong, nothing … There was nothing done. I wasn’t going back there to live, I didn’t care that I was a ward of the state, I’d rather live on the streets.’
She refused to go back to the Grants, so her welfare officer allowed her to live with her boyfriend and his family. She stayed with them until she and her boyfriend got married in the late 1960s. She never saw or heard from the Grants again.
Katie and her husband stayed together. She was thankful to have him stand by her through everything and felt she could keep going because she had him. They had children and built a life together.
Katie described having bouts of depression and anxiety. She has difficulty trusting others, especially those in authority. She also has a series of physical injuries that have produced complications in her career and wellbeing, and has had several operations.
‘I really would like this to never happen to another girl. The physical damage that he did to me, I was lucky to have had kids …’
Katie tried to connect with her biological family but she couldn’t get along with her mother. She found it hard to accept that her mother got her siblings back into her care but didn’t want Katie. She never told her mother about what happened to her.