Tori started living in the Brady household in the early-1980s, when she was six years old. She had been removed from her mother, who experienced significant mental ill-health and was deemed unable to look after her children. Although Tori was not made a state ward, and there was no court order made regarding her custody, she lived with the Bradys with the full knowledge of the New South Wales Department of Community Services (DOCS).
Both Mr and Mrs Brady physically abused Tori frequently and viciously, including hitting, punching, slapping, burning, and beating her with belts and tree branches – ‘things that were just very barbaric and nasty’. She doesn’t remember them ever hurting their own children this way.
Todd and Nick, the oldest Brady sons, began sexually abusing Tori soon after she moved in. They were both in their 40s, and lived near the family home. When they visited they would fondle Tori, and make her masturbate them. Sometimes they would rape her, and penetrate her vaginally and anally with their fingers, household objects, and food. As she approached adolescence, they began showing her pornographic material, and provided her with sex toys.
This kind of abuse happened almost daily. Her bedroom didn’t have a lock, so she tried to keep Todd and Nick out by blocking the doorway, but Mrs Brady wouldn’t let her do this. They would always tell her that if she disclosed the abuse she would be taken away by police or DOCS.
Tori now believes that Mrs Brady was aware that something was going on. ‘I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that there were relatives, and other people in the community, both friends and government workers that informed – verbally went to – Mrs Brady, and informed her that, at the very least, they thought something was happening to me of a sinister nature ... I have an understanding that Mrs Brady denies such a thing ever happening.’
She doesn’t have clear memories of whether she told anyone about the abuse whilst it was happening.
‘When I was a child, and I was being abused, and trying to survive, I wasn’t making mental notes or otherwise about whom best to speak to, or where to go. ... I was in a situation where I was fighting for my life. And every day, and everything that I was doing, was channelled into surviving.’
When Tori was 14 she had a physical fight with Aaron, the youngest Brady boy. During this altercation she screamed at him, ‘at least you don't rape girls like your brothers do’. When Mrs Brady heard this she called Tori a liar, and said she was no longer prepared to have her in their home. She packed Tori’s bags and rang DOCS, ‘and I was hauled away’.
Tori then spent time living in youth crisis accommodation, on the streets, and in juvenile detention centres. She disclosed the sexual abuse to a counsellor shortly after she stopped living with the Brady family. Her DOCS file notes indicate that the matter was to be referred to police, but she does not remember speaking to them at this point. She has recently made a report herself and the matter is under police investigation.
Just before she met with the Royal Commission, Tori received compensation through the NSW Victims Support Scheme. ‘The process was like any other bureaucratic, political process – it was just that. It was a nightmare to go through ... Jumping through the bureaucratic hoops I suppose, the red tape.’
Tori read the Commissioner a statement outlining her concerns with the implementation of child protection legislation. She is angry that her placement was not adequately supported and supervised by DOCS, and feels that the abuse was not properly responded to at the time she disclosed it to them.
She is also angry that her mother was not given the assistance she needed to have kept caring for her children. After she went to live with the Brady family, Tori did not see her mother again until she was 15, and their relationship since has being a hard and confusing journey.
Tori knows that her mother tried to regain custody of her whilst she lived with the Bradys, and had expressed concerns for her daughter’s wellbeing to the Department. Tori pointed out that even case workers with ‘sound knowledge, integrity, desire and great commitment’ are frustrated ‘by systems and ingrained operating procedures that are habitually non-supportive of those measures that encourage families back together’.