‘My mum, she put us in foster care because her boyfriend was beating her up and he’d hit us occasionally if we’d wake him up and stuff, ’cause he used to be a shift worker. So she put us in foster care … I was in Year 7.’
Skyla was 11 years old when she and her four siblings were made wards of the state in the mid-1990s. Skyla and her younger brother were fostered by the Anderson family while her other siblings were sent to different homes in South Australia.
When she was 12, Skyla’s foster father began sexually abusing her. ‘I hated it. The first place I went to the husband started doing sexual stuff to me. And then just from there I hated it, I didn’t want to be there. I used to run away all the time …
‘It would happen during the day when the wife was at work.’
The abuse continued for the year that Skyla lived there and she does not believe that her foster mother was aware it was happening at the time. ‘I think she does now ’cause he took off with a 16-year-old foster kid and started a new life.’ Skyla told the Commissioner that her brother was too young to understand what was going on, and Mr Anderson made her believe that this type of behaviour was ‘normal’.
As a young teenager in the foster care system, Skyla was moved around to different homes in South Australia. At 14 she lived with the Harrison family and it was during this time that she started a relationship with Pete, a man 13 years her senior. The Harrisons were unaware of Pete’s age because Skyla would often run away to spend time with him.
‘I started thinking it was normal. Because then like after it happened, the first boyfriend I had was like 27 and I was 14 … used to run away and go see him all the time.’
Skyla told the Commissioner that as far as she can remember, during the whole time she was in foster care she was never visited by someone from the department to see if she was okay. For much of her adulthood she believed Mr Anderson’s abuse was normal and if she told anyone about what had happened she would not be believed anyway.
‘I just thought maybe no one would believe me. I ended up like until I had my kids, you know. I thought it was normal until I ended going out with a decent guy.’
Skyla has children of her own who are currently in foster care. This has caused a rift in her relationship with her mother, who told her ‘just ’cause you’ve been in foster care yourself doesn’t mean you can’t look after your own children when you have them’.
Prior to speaking with the Commissioner, Skyla had not told anyone about Mr Anderson’s abuse. She has never received counselling and is not interested in pursuing it. ‘I just don’t like talking to people.’
Recently Skyla has reconnected with the siblings she was separated from after going into foster care. She doesn’t believe an acknowledgement and apology from the state for the abuse she suffered as a child would have any meaning for her, and is cynical about its sincerity should it be forthcoming. ‘I don’t think they’d care.’
Now that Skyla is able to recognise that Mr Anderson’s behaviour when she was 12 years old was not normal, she is interested in making an official report to the police. ‘I think it’s time I should.’