Nancey's story

Nancey’s troubles started at a very young age. At the age of two her stepfather began sexually abusing her, which Nancey feels her mother supported. Because of the repeated sexual abuse from her stepfather as well as physical abuse at the hands of her mother, she ran away from home regularly and was frequently picked up by the police.

In the regional New South Wales town that Nancey grew up in, her mother was an influential member of the local Baptist Church and used the Church to ‘help her do what she did’. Her mother also managed to establish relationships with numerous different churches in the region. Nancey told the Commissioner:

‘The worst bits were once she got involved with the Uniting Church … she used to send me to the … church minister who convinced me that everything that happened at home was fine and that was normal and that it was okay and I had to stop telling people because it was just meant to be between us.’

Nancey disclosed her abuse to members of the local Pentecostal Church who, instead of taking action, would perform exorcisms to stop her from telling ‘lies’.

In the mid-1980s, Nancey’s mother and stepfather took her to see a counsellor from the local community centre, who would tell her that what her stepfather was doing to her was ‘normal’. This counsellor would also sit inappropriately close, touch her hair, buy her small presents and give her sweets before driving her home.

In primary school, Nancey was often told by her teachers she was ‘making everything up’ when she disclosed her abuse. In her first year of high school she was sexually assaulted by a boy in a grade above her. A report was made to the police and the boy was forced to apologise, however no further action was taken.

The rest of that year was slightly better. Her had friends who would pick her up after she’d been beaten at home, and at one stage her teacher encouraged her to call Kids Helpline. The following years were not so positive. Her mother used her church connections to gain a place on the school board, where the school principal promised to help get Nancey ‘under control’.

‘Not long after that a DOCS officer just pulled up beside me on the way home from school one day and said “Your mum’s given you to us ‘cos she’s sick of your trouble so you need to come with us … you’re going to go into foster care”.’

Nancey told the Commissioner she was circulated around numerous different foster homes as well as frequently sent back to her parents’ home where she was routinely abused. She tried to tell her carers what was happening but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that one of her foster parents believed her after seeing her bruises.

Around that time a police officer not affiliated with DOCS also took Nancey’s stories seriously and helped her press assault charges against her parents. Sadly, due to the statute of limitations at the time, no charges for child sexual abuse could be pressed since the abuse had to be reported at the time it happened. Eventually Nancey’s mother was charged and her stepfather was given a good behaviour bond for physical abuse only.

Not long after, Nancey was moved to a foster home where she was sexually abused by her foster father. She reported the abuse to DOCS but was told she was ‘hallucinating’. She was moved to a different home and the complaint was never investigated.

During her life, Nancey attempted suicide numerous times and ended up having several children with an abusive partner. The relationship lasted 10 years before she eventually escaped. In the late 2000s, her mother convinced DOCS to remove her children. While under care of DOCS, her daughter was sexually abused by a male student at her school which was reported to her foster carer, school principal and DOCS. Appropriate action was never taken and Nancey was told she was not allowed to pursue it because she was not the legal guardian at the time. The Department of Education never pursued the matter either. ‘They just don’t give a shit, basically.’

‘Everyone likes to bury everything and pretend it never happened,’ she told the Commissioner. Within four months, Nancey took DOCS to the District Court and won her children back. ‘They should never have removed my children but in the end they tried to say that because my childhood was so horrific I could never be a parent.’

Currently living in another regional New South Wales community, Nancey recently started a new relationship and last year was awarded victims compensation for the abuse suffered at the hands of her mother, stepfather, former partner and foster carer. In spite of this, Nancey refuses to seek professional help for herself because she is afraid any disclosure may result in her children being taken away from her again. ‘My kids are too traumatised, I can’t let them be taken away again. That four months in foster care screwed them up forever. They’re not the kids I had before they got taken.’

‘As far as I’m concerned all those institutions screwed me over ‘cause they all knew what was happening and they didn’t intervene.’

Now heavily involved in charity work for survivors of domestic violence, Nancey says this work is ‘my sanity’, but also told the Commissioner ‘There’s certain things I still can’t talk about’.

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