‘I’ve tried [to take my own life] so many times, and so many times should’ve been dead, but something keeps bringing me back. I don’t know how I keep surviving.’
Trudy lives in regional Victoria and grew up in the 1970s with her parents and two siblings. She thinks she may have suffered a head injury when she was a child and doesn’t remember much about her early years. When she was young, her mother had cancer and was very sick.
Trudy was sexually abused by a family friend, Mr Barker, who told her that if she spoke about it to anyone, her mother would die. Trudy describes Mr Barker as ‘the start of the end of my life’. Trudy recalls that he was later charged but she never received compensation.
When Trudy was 11 her mother died as a result of cancer and Trudy believed it was her fault.
At around the age of 12 or 13 police found Trudy at a night disco, after she had ‘been on the street for a long time’. She was taken into foster care by a family that she knew. Trudy didn’t want to go there as they used to walk around naked, something Trudy wasn’t comfortable with. However, when she arrived she enjoyed the fact that the place was clean and she had a nice bed. ‘But then it started.’ The family’s nephew, aged 18, used to come to Trudy’s bed and sexually abuse her. ‘In the end I used to sleep on the floor in the bedroom with just a blanket.’
Her foster family was also cruel. Trudy was treated differently to the other children and wasn’t given the same pocket money. Trudy told her caseworker about the cruelty and sexual abuse, and the caseworker said she would report it immediately. Trudy recalls her caseworker saying she would pick Trudy up the following Monday and remove her from the foster placement. However, the caseworker never came and Trudy didn’t know if any follow up had occurred. Years later, Trudy found out her caseworker had died in an accident soon after their meeting.
Trudy tried to run away. She gathered enough money, with the help of friends, to catch the bus out of town. However, her foster mother appeared at the school and humiliated Trudy, accusing her of stealing money.
Trudy continued to be sexually abused while in foster care. Despite prior abuse at home, she was returned to her father’s care. He sexually abused her. He would get into bed with Trudy, touch her and call her by her mother’s name.
At the age of 14 Trudy stayed with a friend’s family. This was a positive experience. ‘It was the first time I knew who my family really was.’ However, at age 16, a male babysitter, Robert, aged 18, was in the house. ‘He got me really drunk one night and I woke up in the morning, I asked him if we’d done it. He said “No”. And then I found out I was pregnant.’
Still being under child protection herself, Trudy learned that her baby would be taken from her as soon as it was born. She therefore arranged to be released from state care.
Despite being raped by him, Trudy formed a relationship with Robert. ‘I don’t know where I got my beliefs from, or my morals from, but I stayed with him.’ Robert was violent towards her yet they married and had another child. She smoked a lot of marijuana which, she later discovered, Robert had laced with heroin, something she had to detox from. Years later, Robert ‘stole’ both her children and Trudy hasn’t seen them for 14 years.
After having her first child, Trudy saw a psychologist ‘and the first thing she said to me when I went into the room was about my compensation payment. And I said “I don’t want money. I just, I just want to talk about it”’. More recently, Trudy has considered seeking compensation for the abuse she suffered while in foster care, but has been advised that reporting it would be a waste of time because there were no witnesses.
In recent years, Trudy gained access to her files. She was hoping to read about her suspected head injury as a child and gain insight into how she was taken into foster care in the first place. ‘I’ve been trying to piece my life together.’ The abuse Trudy suffered in the foster care system was recorded, along with a recommendation that Trudy be moved to a safe place urgently and receive counselling. Yet ‘nothing was ever done’, Trudy recalls.
‘I’ve wondered, if I’d have had that help, how much of my life might be different now. I’ve only known, I’ve only ever had abusive relationships.’
Trudy has had a number of nervous breakdowns over the years. She was admitted to a psych ward at one time. She is currently addicted to methamphetamine, which she first took to ease the pain of an injury. She has also been the victim of sexual harassment and stalking.
Trudy has had employment in the past. She owns her own home and is currently on a disability support pension. Living in a regional area she finds it difficult to access support because, due to physical injuries, it’s impossible for her to take the train to the city.
Explaining her achievement in physically making it to her appointment at the Commission, Trudy said ‘I’m just pleased that I still have the strength to … be able to say my word, voice what happened and hopefully … make it safer [for another child]’.