‘Where do I start? My grandfather sexually abused me from the time I was four or five, ‘til I was 13. And that’s when I got sent away.’
Lily’s family already knew that her maternal grandfather was a paedophile when he started abusing her.
‘They knew that he liked young kids. From my understanding, two of my aunties was abused by him as well. So they all knew.’ She suspects her mother might have been abused by him too, but ‘she never said nothing’.
A couple of times she was told not to visit her grandparents, but ‘I could never understand why I couldn’t go and visit me grandma, not associating it with what my grandfather was doing’.
When Lily was around five, her sister disclosed that she was being abused and Lily then reported her own experiences to her mother. Lily believes her grandfather employed lawyers who bribed the family not to take the matter further. After this, he continued to abuse Lily.
In the mid-1970s, when Lily was in her first year of high school, she was accused of a minor crime and visited by a welfare worker. She had been at her grandparents when this crime took place, and told the worker this. ‘And I said, me grandfather got me again. And they said what do you mean? I said, you know, sexually abused me again.’
Lily was taken to the local children’s court, ‘and next thing I know’ was in a juvenile detention centre. When she first arrived at the centre, a female staff member instructed her to remove her clothing, and examined her hair and mouth.
‘I had strip everything off, and she said, I need to check your cavity. And I said, but I don’t have any problem with me teeth. And she said, no I need to check your cavity. I says I got no problems with me teeth, didn’t you notice when I opened up my mouth?’
‘And she said no, I’ve got to check you internally. And that’s when I went oh. And so she’s asked me to spread my legs ... And then she’s got her hands down there and inserted a finger. Then she’s took it out, and then she’s got a pencil and plonked it right up there.’
A few days later Lily was still distressed by this incident, and ‘the boss lady’ approached her. ‘She said, what’s wrong? And I told her, and I copped a slap across the mouth. It was like she didn’t believe me. And I thought oh no, here we go again.’
Lily started crying, and ‘one of the other ladies come up and asked me what’s wrong. And I told her, and then I copped another smack in the mouth, like open hand.’
These responses made Lily decide against reporting any further. ‘From that day on I swore to God I would never ever bring that up again. I just wasn’t game enough. ‘Cause I’m thinking my grandfather’s done this, I’ve come to this place, first day ... So from that day, I never said that again.’
When she was 13 Lily was sent to an adolescent psychiatric unit to address her aggressive and destructive behaviours. One day she was watching TV with some of the other children, and a boy asked a male staff officer called Ian if he could kiss Lily. Ian said ‘yep, not a problem ... And when I looked up, I noticed that he just kept looking at us. But I just thought maybe he’s watching to make sure nothing else happens’.
Not long after this, Ian came up to Lily when she was in the laundry and mentioned the kiss between her and the other boy. ‘He was saying, I think the word was titillating. I never heard of the word before. I said, what do you mean? He just grabbed my boobs like this and said, that’s titillating. But it still wasn’t registering what he was saying.’
Ian then ‘put his hands down the front of me ... I thought oh no, not again. Is it me, or is this what happens? ‘Cause I was starting to think, is this what goes on in life?’
Another time, Ian ‘unzipped me zipper, and just got his penis and put it up the back of me ... It sort of freaked me. I was really starting to believe this is what goes on in life.’
When Lily was sick and bedridden for a day or two, staff insisted they give her a sponge bath. ‘And he’s got me boobs again ... and inserted the fingers, and I froze.’
A short while later Lily made a complaint about these incidents to the man who ran the unit, who seems to have done nothing. ‘He said to leave it with me’. When she returned home, her behaviour was worse than ever. Her mother rang the unit, and spoke to a new manager, reporting that Lily was having problems. The man replied, ‘what can I do about it?’.
Lily left school and started stealing, using drugs and abusing alcohol. Just before her 21st birthday she attempted suicide. Around a decade ago, Lily’s GP prescribed her antidepressants, and she began accessing counselling.
Her counsellor helped her understand her sexuality. ‘When people found out I was a lesbian, and some that did know what me grandfather did [would say] oh, that’s the only reason why you’re like that.’ Originally this was what she thought herself. It wasn’t until her counsellor explained this was a common misconception that she realised it may not be the case.
Lily is feeling much better since seeing this counsellor, but still struggles with depression, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘I couldn’t let meself get close to anybody and I still can’t. I’ll have a relationship that’ll last a couple of months ... To this day, I still can’t handle anyone touching me. I can’t even remember how many years it’s been since someone’s cuddled me. I can’t. ’