‘I wish I could have my life over again.’
Lorena grew up in a small family during the 1960s. Her father died when she was a baby and her mother couldn’t look after her. She was sent to her maternal grandparents to live, as it was considered a ‘scandal’ to have her unmarried mother care for her.
Life at her grandparent’s house was hard. Her grandfather was a ‘very angry man’ who was often physically violent towards her grandmother. Her grandmother was a ‘beautiful, loving’ person but she struggled to raise Lorena. Her mother only visited every couple of months.
When Lorena was 13 years old, her grandfather went to live overseas. It was around this time that she became ‘quite rebellious’ and would often break out of the house to stay with friends. Her mother then decided to place her in a home run by the Assemblies of God, despite her grandmother’s disapproval. Her mother hoped it would ‘reform’ Lorena’s behaviour and put her on the ‘right path’.
Lorena lived at the home for four years. Pastor David Trope, who ran the home, and his family lived on one side of the building and the female residents lived on the other. Trope was a demanding man, who had ‘free rein’ over the house. He was not a man to question or complain to. The home had a ‘cult environment’ where Lorena was encouraged to distance herself from the outside world. Her only connection to society was by attending the local high school.
Lorena was 15 years old when the sexual abuse started. She said Trope started it ‘gradually’ from lingering at her bedroom door to say goodnight to leaning into her and pressing himself on her. It then moved onto ‘petting’ and ‘dry humping’. This continued for a period of three years and she never told anyone.
‘It was an unspoken rule for me not to tell. Who would I tell? All hell would have broken loose.’
Shortly after the abuse started, Lorena left school and got a job at the local factory. She said her grades were ‘average’ and she was unable to concentrate. She ‘allowed’ the abuse to continue so she could go out with her work friends.
‘What I actually did was allow him to fondle me the way he did so he would let me go out with my work friends once a week. So I basically prostituted myself to him for a bit of freedom in the outside world.’
At 18, she left the home. It was ‘the best thing’ she ever did. Lorena never saw Pastor Trope or his family again. Shortly after, she got herself a different job and started her own family. Having her first child gave her ‘life’, she said.
As an adult, Lorena has found it difficult to trust others. She has suffered from a series of mental health issues including anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She regrets that her education suffered and is frustrated with ‘what could have been’. She told the Commissioner that she has been ‘under-employed’ and has been forced to accept positions that ‘don’t challenge’ her. She also has a significant mistrust of religious and authority figures.
Lorena first disclosed the details of her abuse to a former resident of the home, Kylie Hunter, in the mid-1990s. She ran into Kylie on a shopping trip and they had a conversation about their time at the home. Kylie told Lorena that Trope raped her several times during her stay and that she recently reported him to the police. Lorena recalls feeling discouraged to make her own statement because the police told Kylie that there wasn’t enough evidence to support her claim.
Lorena came to the Royal Commission to tell her story and to be believed. She said she has spent decades not speaking of her abuse because no one believed her. This included her mother who trusted Pastor Trope to be a ‘good man’. In recent years, Lorena did want to report Trope to the police but discovered he was deceased.