Lorraine Heather's story

Lorraine has bad memories of the first institution she lived in with her siblings. The Methodist children’s home was a cruel place – not a lot of food, and punishment dealt out with a strap or stick of bamboo.

Her older brother, James, sexually abused her in the showers there. ‘I can see him touching me in my private parts and then it goes blank – I don’t think I want to know.’

The children’s home wasn’t any worse than the family life she had come from. ‘I remember as a young child even in the care of my own real parents, being abused by my dad’s mates.’

When her mother went to the pub, she’d lock up Lorraine and her siblings in a big aviary with the birds. They didn’t have a fridge, or any food to put in it, or any pillows or sheets to sleep on. Eventually, the kids were made Queensland state wards.

Lorraine and her brother Kevin were eventually fostered by Malcolm and Katie Bulmer in the early 1960s, while their siblings remained at the home. She was seven, and Malcolm soon ‘started to touch me up and down in any way he could’.

One day when Lorraine was in the bath, he came in and began ‘playing with me down below’. Katie worked nights, and ‘Malcolm would come into my room and wait until my brother was asleep ... So many times he try to put his penis inside me with his hand over my mouth. This had been going since I was seven till I turn 13’.

After Lorraine went through puberty, and was ‘getting my periods, that’s when he changed, and started getting really violent towards me’. She wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend.

‘I wasn’t allowed to go out, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV, I wasn’t allowed to play with the other children. When we went on holidays, I’d be locked up in the room.’

Lorraine believes Katie knew about this abuse, but chose not to intervene. On one occasion Katie ‘knifed’ Lorraine, and she ended up in hospital. Katie also tampered with Lorraine’s food, making her very sick.

There was a case worker who knew what was happening, ‘but he didn’t do anything about it’. This man took her to dinner and ‘he goes, “I know Lorraine, that you were abused”. I didn’t see him after that’. There was ‘another lady’, but Katie would always warn Lorraine not to say anything about the abuse.

The Bulmers made her quit school. ‘The teachers and all that were aware of me getting bashed ... I used to turn up with black eyes.’ She believes staff knew she was being sexually abused too.

Lorraine left the Bulmers when she was 15, after being bashed by Malcolm. She was ‘black and blue’ when she got in a taxi, while Kevin hung out the window with his teddy bear, asking to go with her. ‘And I didn’t want to leave him there, 'cause we used to sit in a room and talk about how they used to treat us.’

When she was 16, Lorraine told her boyfriend about the abuse. They wed a few years later and had children – ‘at least I’m a mother’.

‘Even though I got married, I didn’t want intercourse. I had to be drunk so I didn’t feel it ... I still have problems now.’

In the late 1990s Lorraine went to the police and reported what Malcolm had done to her. ‘It was hard, but he admitted to it.’ The police wanted to press charges but she decided not to pursue the matter further at that time. Malcolm has since passed away.

Lorraine started seeking compensation, but there was a problem with the paperwork; she now has information about obtaining other free legal advice.

For many years Lorraine drank heavily, and for a while used drugs intravenously. ‘I think, when I look back, the pain was so deep and I didn’t want to feel it.’

Lorraine has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has experienced homelessness. She has ended up in hospital as a result of domestic violence on many occasions. ‘I’ve been a girl that’s walked her own path. Trust is a big thing, to trust people. I don’t trust too many people, and I don’t get close to people, except for my children.’

After contacting the Royal Commission, she found ‘it was really getting to me, like flashbacks and everything. I found myself in the bathroom, washing my hands all the time’.

Over the years she has told her mental health care workers about the abuse – ‘they’ve had tears in their eyes’. ‘I used to say, to my doctors and that, that I felt like a black ball being kicked in the park. People are kicking me ... and I’m yelling out, 'Don’t – it hurts!" but no-one can hear me.’

She is glad she has shared what had happened to her. ‘When I started to actually talk ... they eventually understood where I was coming from.’

Her memories of her childhood are still vivid. ‘The thing is, you don’t forget. You don’t forget these people’s names, you don’t forget their faces, you don’t forget how they ... Unfortunately, that’s a part of me.’

Lorraine finds making art really helpful, and is getting out in the world more recently. ‘Good things have got to come. No more of this.’ Music is important to her, and she told the Commissioner, ‘I want to find my own music in my soul’. She also loves to go walking, and enjoys exploring nature.

‘I’m single, I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. I’m finding myself. This is me now, this is my body. And I have a right to be here, just like anyone else, and to be seen. But it’s a new world out there.’

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