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Pam's story

When Pam was nine days old, she was placed into kinship foster care and until the age of 17 lived with her aunt and uncle in Queensland. In the late 1960s, when she was four years old, she was sexually abused over a period of almost a year by a neighbour who lived nearby. The abuse involved attempted intercourse and oral sex.

Pam was unable to tell anyone what was happening because the man threatened that she’d be sent to another foster family if she disclosed the abuse. It stopped when she was five years old and going to school, and no longer had to go near the neighbour’s house.

At 15, Pam was raped by her sports coach, Sam Farrell. She realised later that a process of grooming had taken place for two years leading up the sexual assault. ‘Effectively I spent three days a week at his home, and his wife said, oh you know, “One extra meal. Make it five”. I fitted in. I was no trouble … My mother knew him. My mother knew all of my coaches because for a while there she used to come and watch my games … So there was always that level of trust. And part of me, to be able to play sport, was that I needed someone to drive me home.’

For three years, Pam was sexually abused by Farrell at least weekly. He made her agree not to tell anyone and told her she was ‘special’ to him. When she was 17, Pam told a friend that she was having sex with an older man. The friend told her it was wrong and encouraged her to stop. When Pam told Farrell that she wasn’t going to see him anymore, he begged her to change her mind. When she refused, he wrote a letter to her foster mother disclosing the ‘affair’, which he insisted Pam had instigated. He included in the letter naked photos of Pam.

‘It took me three years to finally stand up to him and say, “Look, I’m not doing this anymore”, and then he blackmailed me about sending stuff to my mother and I said, “Well I don’t care, go ahead”. And then the only day that I didn’t check the mail, that was the day that it got sent to my mother and that’s when it all turned to shit.’

Pam told the Commissioner that she was blamed by her mother, who told her she was just like her birth mother for having an affair with a married man. Pam’s foster brothers then started coming to her bedroom at night, trying to sexually assault her. Nine months after Farrell’s letter, Pam was told to leave the house.

‘I guess she was just angered at what happened’, Pam said. ‘Maybe she just didn’t want to believe that she trusted someone and he did this you know, I mean because he betrayed her as well as myself. I just took the submissive way out and didn’t bother to say anything.’

For years Pam put the abuse behind her and worked successfully in numerous jobs. In the mid-1990s, she was contacted by Queensland Police investigating allegations by Farrell’s daughters that he’d sexually abused them. Pam agreed to make a statement and she attended a committal hearing, which was distressing, particularly when Farrell’s defence lawyer wasn’t challenged by the prosecution that she’d been a willing participant and that it wasn’t abuse.

‘At no point was I ever a willing participant’, she said. ‘I was a participant because I was petrified with fear.’

The magistrate committed Farrell to stand trial, however three months later Pam received a phone call from a staff member of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) notifying her that they wouldn’t be proceeding with the matter. The staff member said that charges of unlawful carnal knowledge couldn’t be brought because they were outside the statute of limitations period.

‘I said, “We agreed before I gave evidence at the committal hearing that you were to charge him with indecent dealing with a child under the age of 16”, maybe rape. I said, “No, no, no. You go back with indecent dealing”. She said, “Oh no, it’s double jeopardy”. I said, “How is it double jeopardy? We’re not even at trial yet, we’ve just had a committal. You can do whatever you want with the charges. It’s not at trial”.’

With no further action pending, Pam continued to make enquiries about how the decision had been made not to proceed, but she became frustrated with delays and poor responses.

In 2014, she initiated further action through Queensland Police requesting criminal charges be reinstated against Farrell and for the matter to proceed to court. She felt the repeated response that it was a ‘historical matter’ led to their less than active pursuit of the matter. One police officer told her that he was 10 years old at the time of the abuse. ‘I said, “I was 15. What’s your point?”’

Pam said she wanted to see the legal process through to the end.

‘What punishment he gets is of no concern to me at all. It’s the validation that the legal process has been finished and that 12 of my peers, or if he pleads guilty, that’s it. I don’t care if he gets community corrections or no jail time to be served. It’s that legal process that I started 18 years ago that needs to be finished …

‘One of the recommendations I’d like you to consider is that there does need to be truth in sentencing and there does need to be a review of the sentences that perpetrators of child sexual assault [receive], because I believe that they have never changed right from the inception, whereas other offences have changed … No they didn’t murder, but I tell you what, it’s not that we want to consider ourselves as being damaged, but I mean, it’s lifelong.’

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