‘Adults knew and no one did anything.’
Marietta grew up on a cattle station in Western Australia during the 1950s. Her mother was young and found married life hard and her father was busy with work and often wasn’t at home.
In the early 1960s when she was six, Marietta was sent to live at a Church of England hostel in a different town, where she stayed for the next years. Her mother wanted her to attend school, but couldn’t manage to take her there every day. She spent most weekends at the hostel but went home for the holidays.
Marietta was the youngest child at the hostel. She didn’t know anyone and felt uncomfortable with sharing a room with several other residents. She went to school every day but didn’t like leaving it.
She wasn’t used to being surrounded by boys and was frightened by them because they were loud and sometimes violent. It didn’t take long before two older boys, who Marietta believes were in their early teens, started sexually abusing her.
One boy, Peter, would direct the other boy, Alec, to abuse her. They often took her into a separate room and put her in a large cardboard box so she couldn’t escape. The boys also made cubby houses for her in the hostel so they could abuse her. She wasn’t sure how many times this happened.
‘I remember we went to the races once. Alec had got cardboard and bushes and made a cubby house. He got some other children as audience [members] and chucked me in there and abused me.’
Another resident, Katie, spoke to a staff member about what happened to Marietta. Later that night, Katie and another worker put Marietta in a scalding hot bath as punishment. She was told that Katie knew ‘all about the dirty and rude things’ she had done that day. After that, she kept her mouth shut.
‘I couldn’t talk because I thought I’d done a real bad thing.’
She isolated herself after the workers punished her. She deliberately sat up the back in class because she didn’t want things to happen without her seeing them. As far as she could tell, the boys got away with it and weren’t punished.
When she was seven, Marietta went home for the holidays. She clung to her parents and often had tantrums when they went to leave the room or the house. She believes her father took her out of the hostel because he noticed her change in behaviour. Her family then moved to another state because of his work.
Marietta couldn’t tell anyone what happened at the hostel. Her mother wasn’t easy to talk to and she felt that no one would believe her.
In the mid 1970s, Marietta finished school early. She couldn’t cope with being around people and found it difficult to relate to others. Her mother made her leave home when she was 18, and she was forced to find a place to stay in another town. She got a job and met her first husband soon after.
Throughout her adulthood, Marietta has had relationship struggles. She said that she was good at picking men who were the opposite of what she needed from a partner. She had several marriage breakdowns, and this affected her children. She described herself as an overprotective parent, preferring to educate her children herself.
She is now estranged from all but two of her children. ‘They don’t understand me and they don’t want to have anything to do with me.’
Marietta has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. She can’t trust others and will go out of her away to avoid people. Her fear of someone coming up behind her still affects her.
At the time of her private session, Marietta had reported the abuse to the police, which was her first disclosure to someone in authority. She’d come to understand that one of her perpetrators could not be found and the other had died some time ago.