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Paulette Grace's story

‘All I wanted to do was to go back to my mother and stay with her. I was scared of all the other people, what they were doing to me, wrong things. I just wanted to be with Mummy and Daddy, that’s all, because I was safe with my parents before I got locked up.’

Paulette was 13 when she was separated from her parents. In the late 1970s, she and her siblings were made wards of the state and placed into a children’s home in Western Australia. She’s not sure how long she stayed at the home, but she was moved to a youth training centre in a different town soon after.

Throughout her time at the youth training centre, Paulette kept in contact with her social worker, Louis Ryan. She described Ryan as a kind man, who often took her and her sister out with his family on weekends. Paulette missed her parents, so she welcomed having Ryan around.

‘He’s the one that looked after us. He used to take us for outings … We used to go for a weekend with him and his family … He was the best social worker there. He was good.’

At the training centre, Paulette was molested and raped by one of the male workers. She immediately reported the abuse to Mrs Boulter, the woman who took care of her. But Mrs Boulter did not believe her and she was devastated.

‘She thought I was telling lies to her. I was trying to tell the truth to her and she punished me and locked me up in the isolation block.’

Paulette told her sister and several other girls what happened but she’s unsure if anything came of her report. She can’t recall their reactions. However, she was punished by the male worker whenever she told anyone about the abuse. She was locked up several times.

Paulette also told Ryan what happened and she remembers feeling relieved that he believed her. Several weeks later, she and her siblings were taken out of the home and placed into foster care with the Davisons. Throughout the duration of their time with this couple, the girls were visited by Ryan.

The Davisons were a couple in their mid-30s, living in a different town in Western Australia. They had no children of their own, which meant that Paulette and her sister had their own rooms. She believes she and her sister stayed there for several months.

After several weeks of being at the Davisons’ home, Paulette was molested and raped by Mr Davison. The abuse occurred several times during her time there. She tried to tell Mrs Davison what was happening but was beaten as punishment.

After a while, it became too much for her. She wanted to tell Ryan what happened, but she knew that Mrs Davison would hear her. She saw only one option.

‘I ran. I left their place and I took off with my sister to go and live on the streets … until the Welfare got us and sent us back to [the youth training centre].’

Once Paulette and her sister returned to the centre, she disclosed the abuse to Ryan. She was relieved, once again, to find that Ryan believed her. However, Mr Davison was not reported to the police.

Paulette was hurt to discover that the male worker was still at the centre. She did everything in her power to warn the other residents to stay away from him. Until she was 16, Paulette remained at the centre with her sister. During this time they didn’t come into direct contact with the male worker again.

In the early 1980s, Paulette moved to another state in an effort to start over with her life. However, she couldn’t forget the abuse, and turned to alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes to mask the pain.

Paulette said she still becomes easily stressed and has difficulty sleeping. She described having had low self-esteem for many years.

For several years, until she met her current partner, Paulette was homeless. The first years of the relationship were tough, but they’ve been happily together now for over 15 years. Paulette told her partner about the abuse in the mid-1980s when she was in her early 20s.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Paulette sought counselling. She has been taking medication for her mental health for several years, and said this has helped clear her mind of negative thoughts and memories.

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