Kitty was born in the mid-1960s, and became a ward of the state a few years later. Her mother, who had left the family, was ‘back on the scene’ only occasionally, and her father’s need to work meant that he couldn’t look after his children.
Kitty told the Commissioner that her mother didn’t like her, and turned her siblings against her. Her father ‘wasn’t a nice person’, and she eventually became estranged from him.
After a few years in foster care, Kitty and her siblings were placed in a government-run children’s home in regional Victoria. During her three-year stay, she was physically and mentally abused, and her self-confidence was eroded even further.
Kitty remembered attending church every Sunday and being told that ‘we weren’t good’. She remembered attending the local school where kids’ parents had told them not to play with her because she was ‘different’.
‘We were no better than the dirt under people’s feet. People didn’t think we counted, or that if we did, we carried the sins of our parents.’ Kitty also recalled being picked on by her siblings who, influenced by their mother’s dislike of her, ‘put the boot in’.
In the mid-1970s, Kitty and her siblings were placed in a family group home where they lived in a ‘basic four-bedroom house’ under the care of house parents Aunty Doris and Uncle Roy.
Doris was ‘nicer’ than the people at the orphanage, and Roy showed Kitty that he ‘cared about’ her. He won the trust of a girl who ‘didn’t trust anybody’, who had been ‘hurt too many times’. She was an ‘easy target’.
‘That’s why he chose me and not my sisters.’
Roy began to sexually abuse Kitty before she hit her teens. Many times he touched her ‘inappropriately’, and forced her to touch him ‘inappropriately’.
Kitty can ‘pretty much guarantee’ that Doris knew her husband was sexually abusing her because ‘she set the scene for it to happen’ by leaving her alone with him for days at home, or on their property. ‘Looking back, to me, that’s like saying, “Hey, go for it”.’
Kitty eventually confided in a friend. However, feeling that it was her fault, she told her friend not to tell anyone. Telling someone else was not an option. ‘I didn’t think anyone would listen ... At the time, there was no one to tell anyway.’
Nearly three years later, Roy’s death put an end to the abuse, and left Kitty feeling conflicted. He had initially won her trust and showed her kindness, so ‘in a stupid way … I missed him once he was dead’. Kitty withdrew into herself and became a ‘loner’. She left school, and worked in a number of jobs, before deciding to move away and put a bit of distance between herself and her family.
In her early 20s, Kitty was forced to disclose to her partner and his family when, after consummating their relationship, she had to be taken to a doctor ‘because of the damage’. That relationship didn’t last. ‘I don’t do relationships good.’ They have been ‘very few and far between’.
Becoming a mother was challenging for Kitty because there were ‘parts of parenting’ that she had never learned. However, she realised that ‘my mum did me the greatest favour by not liking me’. It made her want to prove that, ‘just because crap happens to you’ you can still do what you want to do.
Kitty improved her parenting skills with counselling, and became an overprotective parent. ‘If anyone tried that on my child, they’d be dead.’ She also placed great importance on having a job, providing for herself, and keeping a roof over her head.
Because Roy had died in the 1970s, Kitty felt that ‘there wasn’t much that could be done about it’, so she has not reported the sexual abuse to the police or welfare authorities. Her one attempt to speak to a counsellor about it ‘went badly’, so she is reluctant to speak about it again.
After attending a children’s home reunion, and considering a suggestion that she report the physical and mental abuse she suffered there, she decided that she wasn’t interested in ‘dragging it all up’.
After Rolf Harris’s trial for child sexual abuse, Kitty was prompted to bring her story to the Royal Commission. ‘If people don’t come forward, we can’t fix what was is broken’, Kitty told the Commissioner.
‘I just want to make sure kids don’t end up in the same situation … I just don’t want a child to get to that point where they can become a target … If there’s someone for them to talk to, and if they feel that they’re worth something, then it won’t happen.’