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Trudy Anne's story

Trudy’s mum was a heavy drinker, and when Trudy was a toddler she and most of her siblings were made Victorian state wards. In the 1970s she was placed in a family group home in Melbourne, under the supervision of a main cottage parent, Doreen. ‘She was a fucking evil woman. I just could not work her out.’

A local Catholic priest, Father Pembury, would visit the home at least every Sunday, mostly in the evenings. ‘It was like he was the fatherly figure of the fucking kids.’

Pembury used the pretence of a ‘game’ he had made out of a popular fairytale to sexually abuse Trudy, including fondling her and digitally penetrating her vaginally and anally. Trudy also witnessed Pembury touching her siblings inappropriately.

Trudy believes that Doreen must have seen what the priest was doing to the children, as even at a young age Trudy noticed him ‘groping little boys, and fingering little fucking girls’.

When Trudy was nine, after five years at the home, the children were returned to live with their mother. ‘The abuse, it started in care. It continued afterwards while we was wards of the state ... From the group home to Mum was not much fucking different.’

Trudy and several of her siblings were sexually abused by her older brother while living there. She suspects her brother’s behaviour was caused by him being abused by Pembury too – ‘I believe he fucking turned my brother into an animal’.

Her mother would often try to suicide when she had been drinking, and there would be many different men coming in and out of the house. Trudy and her siblings exhibited very unsettling behaviours, including tantrums and running away, but welfare never investigated why.

At high school, boys ‘would try to kiss you and that ... for my whole teenage school years they used to call me frigid. I’ve never had a normal day in my life. Never, not one normal day ... He fucking destroyed me. Father Pembury and that fucking home destroyed me’.

In her mid-teens Trudy became involved in a violent relationship. When her kids were growing up she was very protective of them, and unable to tell them fairytales as this reminded her of Pembury’s abuse. She would not let them have any sleepovers, and they wouldn’t even ask ‘because they knew I’d want to go over there and check the whole house out, and ask who’s going to sleep there overnight ... My kids think I’m fucking nuts’.

None of her kids know she was sexually abused as a child, so can’t understand why she acts the way she does. ‘They just think I’m a freak because I just don’t trust people. If you can’t trust the fucking priest ... Like who can you trust in your whole life? That’s your mother, and your mother’s put you there. And the only other lady that’s meant to care for you is fucking giving you to him on a fucking silver platter.’

She has a history of drug use and trouble with the law, including spending time in prison, and lives with depression. While she was in custody she studied ‘drugs use and effect, alcohol, women’s health, partners, parenting, this, that, everything ... Because I want to be a good mother to my kids ... I want to be better than Mum, I want to be like a proper mum. But like how do you do that when you’re so fucked up in the head?’

Recently she has received her welfare file but ‘most of this is wrong, because they’ve got different date of births and god knows what else ... and half of that’s missing, some of it’s blacked out’.

Although she would consider reporting Pembury to police, she is hesitant to report her brother, who is now married with children. ‘Even though I want to get things off my chest, I don’t want to go hurt any of them.’

She has not applied for any compensation as yet. ‘I don’t think money could change it ... But, look I wouldn’t say no to it because it would certainly help my kids ... It’s more just like being able to come and say, you know, he’s a filthy bastard, he wrecked my life.’

Speaking with the Commissioner about her childhood was really difficult for Trudy, but she found it helpful to share her story. ‘This is so hard, it’s been so many years coming ... I’ve had counsellors on counsellors, all my life I’ve had that much counselling, but never have really just like let it all out.’

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