‘I was abused a lot growing up. And it happened in my adulthood too … I wanted someone to listen to me and believe my story’, Liza told the Commissioner. ‘The other reason why I wanted to tell my story to you was because I don’t want to be treated like a nutcase anymore.’
Liza was born in the mid 1970s in Western Australia, and has struggled to be believed for much of her life.
When Liza was a child, she was sexually abused by her brother over a four to five month period. ‘I told my mum. I told everybody what he was doing.’ Her mother wouldn’t help.
‘She knew, she just didn’t know how to deal with it, I suppose. And I suppose I have to forgive her for that. No one knew what to do, so they just pretended it wasn’t happening.’
When Liza told her father, he threatened to call the police if the brother touched her again. After that her brother ‘just stopped’.
From her early teens, Liza was sexually abused at high school. Two boys in her year molested her, touching her genitals and breasts, often in front of other students. One was particularly persistent. ‘When he was doing it, I was paralysed. I couldn’t say anything. I could barely speak.’ The abuse continued for some time.
Once again, Liza tried to report what was happening. She told her parents, her uncle and her grandmother. She also went to the police. ‘They just laughed, and I walked out.’
Finally she approached the school principal and asked her to intervene.
‘She said she didn’t want to. And then I said I quit. And I walked out, and that was it.’
Faced with inaction following her complaints, Liza left school.
Later in life, she had spells in and out of a psychiatric hospital, and currently takes medication for her anxiety and mental health issues. Now in her late 30s, she lives with her parents in Perth, and is frustrated by them because they ‘think mentally ill is having some kind of contagious disease.’ ‘They want to deny the whole thing’, she said.
Liza has not had counselling because a ‘string of bad luck’ means her efforts to see a psychiatrist have failed - ‘I don’t know the right people to contact’.
Still attempting to tell her story, Liza has approached different lawyers to help her pursue a complaint against her abusers. However they told her that ‘No one will take it on’. She recently filed a complaint with the ombudsman about her dealings with police.
‘It’s affected my whole life. I don’t even know what an adult should act like. I’m 40 next year and I don’t think I’m acting like a 40 year old. I can’t function like a normal person … It’s very difficult for me.’
‘I’ve failed at life. I’ve failed at every attempt I’ve tried to make something of myself, including jobs, employment history, college. Everything I’ve tried, I’ve failed.’