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Sigrid's story

‘People say your teenage years are the best years of your life. Well they were the worst years of my life.’

Sigrid turned 13 in the mid-1980s. Her father was violent and the family home was unhappy. One weekend Sigrid looked forward to getting out of the house for a sleepover at her friend’s place. ‘I went to stay at my best friend’s house’, Sigrid told the Commissioner, ‘and I woke up in the middle of the night and [her mother] had her fingers inside me. I just clamped my legs shut and thrust them down till she went away’.

Convinced it must have been a dream, Sigrid told no one about the abuse.

Sigrid was having trouble at school. She had recently been expelled from a couple of high schools in the Hunter region of New South Wales. The Department of Education sent her to a male psychologist, who sexually abused her on her first visit. ‘I can’t remember a lot of it but he was sexually inappropriate with me … I only went a couple of times.’

Again, Sigrid said nothing. ‘He made threats about my family, like I wouldn’t be believed.’

Coming so soon after the experience at the sleepover, Sigrid believed the psychologist’s assault was somehow her fault.

‘It happened again and it’s like, “There’s something wrong with me”.’

Sigrid directly links her experience of sexual abuse with what followed – a quick descent into drugs and crime. ‘In the next 12 months I ended up not living at home anymore and a heroin addict.’ Sigrid received no further education and by the age of 19 she had been convicted and sent to prison for the first of many stays.

‘I haven’t done anything more serious than stealing. But I’ve 20 pages of stealing. They’ve found it’s the way I deal with my anxiety.’ Sigrid has been diagnosed with kleptomania.

People have asked her what went wrong. She did not tell police or the courts about her sexual abuse. ‘It’s just not something that you tell.’ Sigrid did disclose her history to a man she was living with in the 1990s and he told her parents. ‘They were like, “We knew something was wrong and why didn’t you tell us?” It was too late by then.’

Sigrid has suffered from depression. During one jail visit she tried to take her own life by swallowing razor blades. She survived and was prescribed Prozac.

Sigrid has had children. She worked hard as a parent, but has struggled. ‘It’s like I can’t have relationships. It’s destroyed a lot of things in my life.’

‘As a mother I’m that chronically vigilant with my children. I burn myself out - and then I can’t help my children.’ Sigrid hasn’t seen her youngest kids for some years – they are in care because of the time she has been spending in prison.

But Sigrid’s oldest son is in his 20s and doing well. ‘He’s never had anything happen to him.’ Sigrid has taught all her children protective behaviours.

‘You’ve gotta give your kids the confidence. You know that thing where you have to respect your elders? Well I don’t teach that to my children.

‘If you don’t feel comfortable with someone you have every right to walk away, and I think that’s the thing that needs to be taught. This ‘respect your elders’ thing – it’s a great big loophole for a lot of evil, horrible people.’

Sigrid is reluctant to report her own abuse to the police. ‘I don’t really see the point. I mean my whole life’s been destroyed by it. All I’ve done is jail.’

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