Lucy was born on the New South Wales central coast, and lived on a farm with her mother, father and siblings until her parents divorced in the 1970s. When she was eight, her mother entered into a de facto relationship, after which Lucy’s father wasn’t allowed to be involved with the children.
Lucy’s stepfather was physically and emotionally violent. He also sexually abused her for two years, including raping her.
‘He had a knife with a black handle and he would have it next to me, or he would hold it in his hand or near my throat to threaten me. He would threaten me if I did not do as he said ,or I did not do the sexual act correctly. Sometimes he would hold his hands around my throat.’
One time her mother walked in while her stepfather was abusing her. ‘I heard them arguing and mum threatening to take me to the doctor, but this never happened. She never spoke to me about this or comforted me, and she also caught us again – but I can't remember what happened. I was very disconnected from my mother and can't remember having any feelings towards her.’
After her stepfather ‘had a go at my cousin’, Lucy tried to tell her uncle, but he did not believe her. ‘After that I just felt like "Yeah, I’ve got no chance".’
After two years, her paternal grandmother became aware of the abuse. Lucy remembers attending a police station, and her mother’s partner was convicted of indecent assault (but not rape) against her. He received a small fine and a good behaviour bond. She is still angry that her stepfather received such a lenient sentence, and that her mother was not charged with neglect despite knowing about the abuse.
Lucy was removed from her mother’s care and placed in a western Sydney children’s home run by an Anglican organisation. Her father visited her every fortnight, but she never saw – or missed – her mother.
At the home she was assigned a male counsellor and social worker, Murray, who sexually abused her. Her files also indicate that she made allegations of sexual abuse against another male staff member, but she cannot remember doing so. It is recorded that both she and the man she accused were questioned, but as he denied the abuse, and Lucy was not believed, she eventually dropped the allegations.
Lucy was placed into foster care after about six months at the home. Her foster mother and siblings were nice, but her foster father, Charlie, sexually abused her.
‘I think he did threaten me. I can’t remember ... It sounds wrong, but it just felt like I was so used to it. I didn’t know what way to look, to turn. I thought, "Well, this must just be a natural thing".’ At the same time Murray continued sexually abusing her when he made home visits.
Another six months passed and Lucy was sent to live with her ‘guardian angel’ grandmother. The abuse by both men ceased. ‘I knew no one was getting through those doors with Grandma there.’ Being safe for the first time in a long time, she nonetheless felt like the men had taken her ‘mind, body and soul’.
Due to the abuse, and being moved around various placements, Lucy’s education and employment opportunities were disrupted. She has found it hard to get on with other staff in several workplaces, and left on bad terms.
‘I know I’ve buggered up in my life, big time. And I know it’s got to do with not having a proper upbringing. I know that, and I try and change it, but it don’t work. It just feels like I’ve got this black cloud and I’ve got to walk with it.’
The abuse also impacted significantly on Lucy’s relationships with her partners and children. ‘I struggle with relationships. I feel my life is wrecked. I feel comfort from bad relationships and not good relationships. It's like I'm drawn to the bad stuff as if I like it. I abuse the good because I don't know how to take it.’ Often her partners were violent and sometimes police intervention was necessary.
She feels she has ‘stuffed up’ her children’s lives – some of them spent time in care, and one died of an overdose. Although Lucy tried to listen to her kids and speak honestly to them, she was not always able to offer them the support they needed.
Lucy has spoken to a counsellor on a few occasions but feels that this has gone as far as it can, and does not want to take any medication to help her cope with the impacts of the abuse.
‘I’ve spoken to people over the years. People have offered me, take this, take that, and I don’t know what it is, I’m not taking it ... I’d prefer to let my body take control of itself. It’ll heal itself.’
She still talks with a chaplain, and also with people from a legal service she is accessing in regards to lodging compensation claims. Positive self-talk and affirmations have helped her to keep going through difficult times.