Liz’s single mother worked full time to support the family, so from the age of just six weeks old Liz spent her weekdays in home placements run by Family Day Care.
It was a safe and comfortable time for Liz until, in the mid 1980s, when she was about five years old, she was moved into a new placement under the care of a woman named Mrs Comar.
Liz told the Commissioner that Mrs Comar’s husband ‘started grooming me from day dot’. He would pick her up from school, touch her in the car on the drive home, and then continue to abuse her in the garage while Mrs Comar was looking after the other children upstairs.
The abuse quickly escalated. Liz said that the worst times were those nights when her mother was working and she had to sleep over at the Comars.
‘I’d go to have a shower and he’d come in and – yeah, I’m sure you can work out what happened then. Another time, which happened numerous times, I would sleep in another bedroom, he’d come in, put his hand over my mouth and rape me at night while his wife was in another room.’
Mr Comar was also emotionally abusive and manipulative.
‘He said, “If you say anything – this is our little secret – your Mum’s going to die” ... I think he just drummed it into my head that if I told anybody I’d be killed, or this or that.’
Liz put on a ‘brave face’ and didn’t mention the abuse to anyone. However, her mother spotted some changes in her behaviour and became concerned.
‘My Mum took me to a psychologist. I changed schools four times while I was in their care because my Mum thought the schools were doing something wrong.’
Liz’s mother never managed to connect the dots, and Liz stayed with the Comars and endured the abuse for six years. Eventually her behavioural issues got so bad that she was moved to a special school. The school provided its own after-hours care, so Liz’s mother no longer had to rely on the Comars to look after Liz. After about six years with the Comars, she was pulled out of the placement, and the abuse finally came to an end.
A few years later, Liz said that she became a ward of the state, ‘because my mum couldn’t handle me … I was shipped all over Sydney. I was still going to my beautiful all-girls school in my beautiful school uniform, but I was living in refuges, and this is all because of this’.
Then, when she was in Year 8, she spoke about the abuse for the first time.
‘I must have told one of my teachers that it happened, just in conversation, and the police were called in that day.’
Liz said she spoke to the police and told them that she wanted to press charges. They asked her to come in the following week to make a statement, but the appointment never happened. Liz said, ‘DOCS didn’t let me see the police. They didn’t take me along to have the statement’.
Around this time, Liz’s mother learned about the abuse and was ‘very supportive’. Liz said, ‘I think as soon as she was told she would have thought “Oh no” because she did everything in her power. It wasn’t her, it was everybody else’.
Years later, when she was in her early 20s, Liz tried again to report the abuse and gave a formal statement to the police. Unfortunately, after an investigation they concluded that the matter would be too hard to prosecute.
‘It wasn’t a good experience because we didn’t get the result that we wanted, but in terms of police - fabulous. Absolutely lovely people.’
Liz stayed in touch with the detective who managed her case and checked in with him again in the mid 2000s. He suggested that she pursue victims of crime compensation, which she did, and ended up receiving a payment of $38,000.
Liz is currently exploring further legal options. She has seen a psychologist and has received a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which she finds validating and reassuring.
She told the Commissioner that she has been supported by her ‘amazing’ partner throughout the whole process. ‘Through the victim’s compensation, through everything. This is the most stable I’ve been in my life, thanks to him.’