Lynette still can’t remember the full details of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Mr Stevenson. She told the Commissioner, ‘I suffer from post-traumatic stress so a lot of my memory is blocked, but I do have what I call night terrors or dreams’.
She does remember that in the late 1950s, she and her sisters were removed from their mother and placed into a children’s home, which housed wards of state and children of returned servicemen. Lynette was nine years old, and it was around Christmas time.
Mr Stevenson was in charge of the home. ‘He was very violent, sadistic, cruel, vindictive – any of the those horrible words – on top of the sexual assaults.’ He was also very controlling and manipulative, and Lynette told the Commissioner that she has suffered from nerves and anxiety throughout her life as result of her experiences at the home.
Stevenson would often watch the girls as they showered or bathed. Lynette recalled that one time when she tried to cover herself up ‘he smacked me across the face and said “You don’t have to hide yourself from me” and pulled the towel from me’.
Sometimes Stevenson would make the girls wear socks on their hands as punishment for biting their nails, and if they wet the bed he would force the soiled sheets into their mouths.
Lynette suspects that he committed other acts of abuse as well. ‘I remember one specific time he took me out to the back. I can’t remember what he did to me. I remember being walked back but I can’t remember what was said or what was done to me, but I know something did because it frightens me to think about it.’
Lynette told the Commissioner she was always too scared and confused to report the abuse. ‘I thought “who would believe me?” And I didn’t tell anybody because I really thought it was my fault.’
It’s only in the last 10 years that Lynette has been able to open up about what happened to her. She said she first talked to a social worker, then through Care Leavers Australia Network and Open Place she managed to find a psychologist who she is still seeing regularly.
A few years ago she spoke to police and a solicitor about starting legal proceedings against the institution, but was told that because of her memory lapses the case could not be prosecuted.
However, Lynette was assured by police and the solicitor that Stevenson did receive punishment for crimes he committed against other children, and she takes some comfort from that.
‘I would want him to be punished. I would want him locked away forever so that it couldn’t ever happen again. So he couldn’t get to and hurt another human being again. Because he’s not just hurt that child, he’s hurt the adult.’
Given his age, Lynette assumes that Stevenson is now dead. ‘And I presume he’s in hell. I don’t think heaven would accept him.’