Tabitha's story

Tabitha was very young when she was made a ward of the state. She and her brother were fostered in the early 1970s by Stan and Enid Davis, who lived in a coastal Adelaide suburb.

The couple took on many foster children, often several at the one time. Enid was very cruel and punitive. She treated the children ‘like slaves’, rubbed dirty nappies in their faces, beat them and flushed their heads in the toilet. Enid ‘used to say to me she loved me, but she kept beating me when she did it’.

The girls’ slept next to Stan and Enid’s bedroom, with the boys in another part of the house. Stan sexually abused Tabitha for over a decade. ‘I was pulled out of beds most nights. But I was made to hang on to the bed while he abused me, or he would take me down the back shed.’

Stan also abused Tabitha’s foster sister. The girls shared a bunk bed, and ‘he would wake me up if he was abusing Sharon, just from her screaming or crying’. Enid knew of this abuse, and would punish the girls for it. ‘I couldn’t understand how she allowed him to do that to us, and then beat us for it.’

The foster kids were not usually taken on holidays. Instead, Tabitha would be left with Enid’s elderly parents. Enid’s father Jim, sexually abused Tabitha, making her sit on his lap and masturbate him. Tabitha believes that Jim had sexually abused Enid too, when she was a girl.

The only time Tabitha went away with the family, they stayed in a caravan park. When she was on her own, a stranger approached her. He led her to a secluded area, and sexually assaulted her.

‘I always used to go into another world. ... Anybody could do anything to me. And he was down the bottom, and I would always look up the top.’ When the man left, ‘I just went on doing what I was doing’.

Her education suffered because she would fall asleep at her desk, exhausted from being woken by Stan every night. She bit her nails and was always scared to go home.

In her early teens, she would be made to get herself ready for another man, who collected her from the house in his car. He took her on ‘dates’, trying to kiss her and ‘do things’ to her. She complained to Enid, and he stopped coming around.

‘I never knew what sex was. It was really weird. Even though it was happening to me every night, I never really knew what it was.’ Tabitha wasn’t allowed to have boyfriends, watch television, or read adult material. ‘We were brought up like nuns. And then all this other behaviour was happening all the time.’

One of her foster sisters tried to report the couple’s abuse, but was told ‘it was her word against theirs’. ‘That’s what they told us constantly – we’d never amount to anything, we were just foster kids, we were foster bastards. Nobody would ever listen to us, we weren’t worth anything.’

Tabitha ran away when she was 15, moving in with another family. She and her brother were visited by a welfare officer, who apologised that they’d been left with Stan and Enid for so long.

Around this time Tabitha located her birth mother interstate. ‘God bless her, she was a loser’. Her mother was an alcoholic, and ended up sleeping with Tabitha’s brother when they all met up.

Two years later Tabitha had her first child, who was taken away from her, although she was employed and ‘doing everything right’. She then had a relationship with another man. They had a daughter, who he later molested. ‘I just couldn’t believe it, that that actually could happen again’.

When her first husband said he loved her, after severely beating her, she believed it because of her experiences with Enid. ‘I thought wow, this man really loves me, wow. ... I seriously, seriously thought it.’

Tabitha attempted suicide many times, and started counselling ‘because I was losing my mind’. She had three kids to look after at this stage, and ‘started to relate to people who kill their children, because I thought about doing it, myself and my children, because I knew I couldn’t leave them here. ... I feel sorry for people that do it, because I know the torment they are going through’.

After having a breakdown, she began using drugs. ‘Drugs were the only things that made me feel normal. I could literally live in society okay, if I was on drugs. If I didn’t have anything, I was a mess.’

She was still raising her kids, and met a man who took care of her for ten years. She had further children to him, but ‘that didn’t work out so well’.

Tabitha was offered $10, 000 compensation years ago, but did not pursue it. She has still not received any compensation, or reported the abuse to police, but is now considering her options. She told the Royal Commission that as she was made a ward of the state until she was 21, the government should have looked after her properly, even after she left foster care. ‘I was a baby, I knew nothing about life’.

Tabitha describes herself as a ‘massive Christian’, and enjoys her work in aged-care. When she met her husband, Ben, a few years ago, ‘I actually found out what feelings were’. She went back to counselling to learn more about her emotions, and how to manage them.

Today, Tabitha is happy with herself and how far she has come.

‘I love who I am. I think I’m kind, I’m not dried-up and angry and nasty and horrible like some people. ... You’ve got to be happy in your life, you’ve got to find happiness.’

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