‘I grew up in foster care … I was with the same foster family from the age of one … There were some problems because both of my foster parents had mental health issues, but it was good. It was bad and it was good. Generally, I think I was lucky.’
Roslyn was placed in care in Victoria in the mid-1950s, after her parents divorced. Her other siblings went to live with relatives, but Roslyn was deemed too young for them to manage her care. ‘I think it was supposed to be temporary, but …’
Roslyn attended access visits with her parents. During one visit when she was 12, ‘I’d just begun to develop breasts and my father, he was always physically affectionate, and he … was feeling my breasts, and he was commenting about that’.
Roslyn was terrified that her foster mother would see her father groping her. ‘I don’t know why I was so scared, but I didn’t want her to know … I remember he used to say things to me like, “Oh, if you’d lived with me, we would have had showers together” and things like that. I felt sort of betrayed, because I’d always thought he was wonderful.’
Roslyn had little contact with her father for many years because of issues with his new wife, so ‘nothing really happened apart from that’.
Because her foster mother worked, Roslyn was a fairly independent child. ‘I don’t remember how old I was when I started going to the doctor by myself, but I think I probably would have been about 14 or 15 … One of those times there was this doctor, I think he might have only been there for a short time. I didn’t know his name.’
Roslyn doesn’t recall why she was at the doctor’s, but knows that ‘it wasn’t anything to do with gynaecology, because I remember he asked me to get up on the table to take the bottom half of my clothes off, and I remember being surprised.’
Roslyn told the Commissioner that she was feeling really embarrassed taking her pants off, ‘and then not understanding why he, you know, put his fingers inside me and … yeah, it was horrible and really uncomfortable physically, and embarrassing and it went on for, it seemed like ages.
'He was saying things like, “Does this feel nice?” and “Does your boyfriend do this to you?” I didn’t tell anybody about that either.’
After she walked home from the doctor’s surgery, ‘the only other thing I can remember is feeling … I don’t know, like I didn’t really matter. And I never told anybody until I was in my late 30s, because I think I thought that I didn’t matter. I thought that what happened to me didn’t matter’.
When Roslyn was 15, she was visiting her mother and one night her stepfather got into her bed and tried to have sex with her. ‘Luckily my mother came to the door and he got out … He was a violent man, I don’t know why she was able to stop him.’
Roslyn hadn’t thought about that incident much until 20 years later when her mother phoned and asked her about it. Her mother was concerned because her son had asked Roslyn’s stepfather to mind his grandchildren while he and his wife went away on holiday.
Roslyn began suffering from depression when she was 15. ‘I had major episodes of depression … but I’d never got any treatment. They used to last about a year and I’d be terribly depressed, sometimes so depressed I couldn’t even get out of the chair … It used to end maybe after about a year, and I’d be alright for a while. And then it would happen again.’
When she was in her late 30s, Roslyn had a car accident that triggered a major breakdown. ‘I think it was the near death experience that just brought this episode on.’ Her GP at the time had been trained as a therapist, and he referred her to a psychiatrist, who she saw for many years.
When Roslyn told her GP about the sexual abuse, ‘he barely even commented when I told him and that just reinforced my idea that it didn’t matter’.
It took Roslyn years to tell her psychiatrist about the abuse and when she did, ‘he reacted in exactly the same way as my GP. He just barely even commented and again, I thought, "Well … other people have suffered a lot more than I have".’
In the early 2000s, Roslyn reported the abuse to the medical practice where it had taken place. They said her records had been destroyed, and no one could remember the doctor’s name. She has had no further contact with the surgery.
Roslyn reported the sexual abuse to the police after she had contacted the Royal Commission. The police were able to find out the doctor’s name, but as he now lives overseas, there is nothing they can do unless he returns to Australia.
Roslyn told the Commissioner, ‘I knew it wasn’t okay, but I had no self-confidence. I felt such a victim, I think … It’s the same as what happened with my stepfather. I know that if my mother hadn’t have come … he would have, because I had no voice to say, “Don’t do that”.’
Roslyn believes that an apology from the medical practice would help. ‘For me to be able to think that what had happened to me mattered, I needed them to acknowledge that it mattered. And they didn’t, so they made it harder for me.’