‘I have been trying to write my story for years. I thought it might help me to feel better. But I just never could because I was always frozen with fear whenever I tried to, and the scars of the past would come back to haunt me, without care or consideration for the fact, I was trying to live some semblance of a normal life.’
Preparing to meet with the Commissioner Maisy ‘lost full nights of sleep, and battled with the return of nightmares and flashbacks. Periods of sobbing, shaking, crying, panic, anxiety, shock, numbness, anger, outrage, nausea, and much more came out of Pandora's box that I had triple padlocked many years ago. I wish it would just all go away. It never will’.
From the age of four Maisy and her sisters lived in children’s homes in Melbourne, where ‘too few people’ really cared for them. In later life she learned they had been placed into state care in the late 1960s because her parents had been deemed ‘unfit’ to care for them.
‘My entire childhood and teenage years, I had one focus and that was “survive or die trying”. There was no time for playing carefree childhood games, and living a life of what should have been my “age of innocence”. That was stolen from me the day I was placed in state care and subsequently sexually abused.’
When she was about six years old, Maisy lived in a home run by the Victorian Children’s Aid Society. Maisy ‘hated’ the home as it ‘always felt chaotic and volatile’, and was frightened of the other children. She felt ‘forgotten and overlooked, and completely lost in a sea of children … as I sat on the steps in the front entrance hall, for countless years waiting for my real parents to come and take me home for good. They never did’.
Soon after Maisy arrived at this home, Kelly and Harvey Applegate became her ‘holiday hosts’. Maisy came to regard them as her ‘Mum and Dad’, and they would be in her life for the next 15 years.
‘One day, these people came to the home to say hello to me, and I remember this giant fixing my doll. He sat me on his knee and talked to me quietly, tickling my tummy and bouncing me up and done. I remember him telling me I was pretty as a princess, and just as special. Would I like to be his princess? I was so happy. Mum was standing in front of us with her lovely clothes and pretty blonde hair and sunny smile. I fell in love with her the moment I set eyes on her.’
Harvey molested Maisy in a caravan during her first holiday stay. She remembers looking at Kelly ‘as he was touching me, wondering why she didn't stop him. Maybe she didn't know. I'm not sure. She was right there with us though’.
During holidays, Harvey would touch her in her room, bathe her, and habitually sit her on his knee. He told her that it was ‘our little secret’ and that ‘I shouldn't tell anyone else because the game would be spoiled and I wouldn't be able to see Mum anymore’.
For the first couple of years ‘I think I was genuinely happy going to these people, despite being molested all the time. I do recall feelings of annoyance at always being poked and prodded but I cannot correlate what he was doing to me with any definite feelings of knowing it was wrong’.
Even now ‘I think I must have been a dumb child. But I just genuinely did not understand for a long time that what Dad was doing to me was wrong. To this day I take excessively long showers, in an effort to scrub the filth of my past away. It doesn't work’.
Maisy’s caseworker either ‘missed’ or overlooked’ the fact that she was ‘clearly being abused’. She recommended that Maisy board full time with the Applegates – ‘no formal assessment was ever made as to the suitability of the Applegates being my guardians’.
‘He slept on the couch in the sunroom. She slept in the main bedroom. My bedroom was right next to the sunroom. When she was away, or in hospital he would sleep in the big bed, and make me sleep there with him. In all the years I was in that house they never shared a bed together. That was the new pattern of my life since going to live their full time.’
‘In the next few years I was would learn to become an expert at disassociation and going numb. It was the only way I could survive. I pretended the sexual attacks were happening to someone else not me. I had to because now I was being raped and penetrated, not just touched and molested. And he would deliberately hurt me – hitting me, or punching me, or forcefully holding me down. The worst part was he was so gleeful about what he did to me. He seemed to love hurting me. He didn't call me his princess anymore.’
‘I was alone, isolated, scared, chronically depressed, abused daily, sexually, physically, mentally and emotionally, and I had nowhere to turn for help. I had no friends, and I was not allowed to invite kids to play, I had no normal teenage things like posters on my walls, or pop music to listen to and I was banned from watching TV. I just did not know how I would survive another assault or sexual attack. It would be years before I got away and two suicide attempts later. I would not be heard, listened to or believed ever.’
As Maisy entered her teenage years, Harvey began to physically and emotionally abuse her. On one occasion, he punched her repeatedly in the face. He also kicked her and broke one of her ribs. For all that she still managed to present well to the outside world.
‘On the outside I looked like a well-kept teenager. But underneath I was black and blue and quite often in pain from the sexual assaults.’
Maisy is ‘amazed that I never ended up pregnant. Or maybe I did but never knew it, because of being beaten so savagely all the time. I understand now, why he used to always say “you are so stupid. You are going to end up with a bun in the oven”. It is noted on my files that I was possibly “sexually active” at 16. Yes ... without consent’.
After she left the Applegates, Harvey stalked her for a number of years. He continued to rape her and bash her until she was 21 years old. Maisy told her boyfriend about Harvey and his behaviour and he helped her stand up to Harvey.
At times Maisy nearly gave up, but then she remembered things Harvey had said to her. ‘I heard his voice saying to me "I will break you". And that laugh of his. My reply ... “No. No you will not. Not ever again. Not this time. You will never break me again, and you will never hold me hostage [to] torture, pain, and suffering keeping me silent ever again either”.’
In the 1980s Maisy reported Harvey to the police. She believes no action was taken and that Harvey denied her allegations. Both Harvey and Kelly are now deceased – but Maisy wishes Harvey was still alive.
‘I could look him in the eye and cause him some level of discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety, and terror knowing that all these years later he would be held accountable for his paedophile behaviour towards me, and that as a result, he could be imprisoned behind bars.’
Maisy lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, intense flashbacks, and anxiety. ‘I have never felt truly safe ever. And I am always on the lookout and rather than totally high alert these days, [I am] wary and watchful, at times I get very jumpy.’ She regularly sees a counsellor and has formed a positive professional relationship with her.
‘These days whenever anyone speaks to me about my childhood, I find myself very teary. Because for the first time in my life I am speaking out. I am being heard and believed. For the first time in my life, I have others supporting me – not opposing me accusing me of being deceitful and a liar. It is a strange place to be in I must say. I am used to fending for myself. I am used to dealing with the tough stuff myself. I am used to not talking or sharing the depths of me with others. I am used to living alone, by myself, with myself, within myself. I am used to being the giver, not the taker.’