Robyn's story

‘I have lived a life of confusion. That’s why I think the confusion has got to stop.’

When Robyn was asked if she wanted to go and live with Irene and Don Jackson she happily said, “Yes”. By age 10, she’d already stayed with the couple on occasional weekends away from the Catholic orphanage that she’d been in since the death of her mother, but at that stage Don Jackson ‘hadn’t tried anything’.

For the 11 years Robyn lived with the Jackson family, she was continually sexually abused by Don. ‘He took my virginity when I was 12 or 13. I’d call it rape but he didn’t – he was teaching me how to be a good wife, according to him. If I didn’t do it I was threatened, as in anything and everything he could threaten me with, he’d threaten me. If he thought I’d been talking to any boys I would cop a hiding. Mum caught him in bed with me having sex.

I had to apologise and tell her, “It won’t happen again, I’m very sorry”.’

At 12, Robyn told her local priest that Don Jackson was playing ‘mothers and fathers’ with her. He told her to leave it with him and went to speak to Irene and Don. ‘The next day I copped a hiding’, Robyn said, ‘because I spoke outside the family.’

Robyn told the Commissioner that she was often beaten around the abdomen by Don who, concerned she might be pregnant, was trying to induce a miscarriage.

By 15, Robyn was regularly being taken by Don to hospital for venereal disease testing. On one of the visits she disclosed the abuse to a female doctor who told her she wouldn’t do the test on that occasion, but didn’t take any further action. ‘Nothing was done so I got to a stage of thinking, what’s the point.’

For her 18th birthday, Robyn received a card with an enclosed birth certificate that stated she had a new middle name and her last name was now Jackson. Nobody had asked her about the change and it wasn’t something she wanted.

Robyn tried numerous times to leave the Jackson home, but each attempt at escape was unsuccessful and she’d be brought back. When she was 21, she met her future husband, Peter, and they started building a life together. As Robyn tried to sever contact with her past, Don’s efforts at intimidation increased. He’d telephone her and hang up, follow her in his car and into shopping centres, and park outside her house for hours. On one occasion he tried to run her off the road while she was driving with her children.

When her first son was two years old, Robyn attended a New South Wales public hospital and disclosed the sexual abuse to a psychiatrist. ‘I started to tell him and he said, “Are you sure you didn’t ask for it?” I just got up and left.’

After that experience, Robyn said it took her a long time to trust anyone, but at 29 she met a counsellor who believed her and offered a depth of understanding and support she hadn’t before encountered. ‘Without him I don’t know where I would have been’, she said.

He also supported her when she heard Don Jackson had died. She went to the funeral ‘to make sure he was dead’.

In later life, Robyn found out that her father had been to the orphanage several times to see her, but she had no recollection of this. The Jacksons had falsely told her he was dead. She couldn’t recall anyone ever coming to the Jackson’s house or asking how she was going all throughout her teenage years, and was upset that her efforts at disclosure had only ever made things worse. She was repeatedly told that the Jacksons were upstanding people.

‘They wouldn’t do that and that’s what I got told. No one would believe you. So I believed them that no one would and for a long time no one did. I had that experience.’ It was important, Robyn said, that children be checked on to see that they were doing okay.

‘Make sure someone goes and talks to these kids, but don’t talk to them in front of the parents. Take it away, talk to them privately. But listen too. [If] they’re behaving in a way that something is wrong, ask the question. It happened to me and I was never asked. Nothing happened.’

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