As a young Aboriginal girl living in rural Western Australia, Verity remembered always being afraid. Her mother had severe mental health problems and would often harm herself. ‘We watched her slicing her wrists ever since we were little kids.’
As a result, Verity and her siblings were in and out of many different foster homes. Eventually Verity went to live with the couple who had fostered her mother and uncle years before. It was here that she was first sexually abused, by her foster father.
‘He used to come into my room and touch me.’ Verity can’t remember exactly when this happened but thinks she was about four or five at the time. ‘I was so young.’
She also has no memory of a caseworker or welfare officer ever coming to house. Today she wonders if they even knew she was there.
Verity later learned that the same man had sexually abused her mother when she was 13, and that she’d been thrown out of the house when she told his wife. Despite all this, Verity’s mother was still in touch with the couple and saw the man as a kind of father figure.
Verity also discovered that her mother had been sexually abused and raped by other men too, and that she’d been struggling to cope with the memories and shame ever since.
Verity got away from the abuse when she returned to live at home. But she was only there for a few years, and went back into care when her mother couldn’t look after her.
Verity was sexually abused in another foster home, this time by a boy who was also living there. Verity said he was a teenager, perhaps 16. She was in primary school, still a little girl.
Until recently, the only person Verity had ever told about what happened was her younger sister, who’d also been sexually abused. ‘I tell her everything. We just counsel each other.’
But they knew they had to keep it from their mother. ‘That was why my mum was so really, really messed up. That’s why we were so frightened to tell her anything about what had happened to us.
‘If we said something, she might go and do something to herself.’
A few years ago, Verity’s mother took her own life. ‘She was on all sorts of tablets until she eventually slit her wrists the last time. No coming back.’
Verity left school in Year 10 and never got a chance to catch up on her education. She self-harmed more than once, had several breakdowns and was treated for depression. Her adult relationships have been affected by the sexual abuse, and she’s had to escape domestic violence. ‘Watching my mum was like a circle, I guess’, she said.
Verity has never received counselling and still battles with memories of the abuse. ‘You can never forget but you can’t move on unless you can and sometimes it just creeps up.’
When asked if an apology from the government would have any meaning for her, Verity said, ‘They can’t take away what I went through’.
However, she and her sister are survivors. They took care of each other when they were kids and still do today. Verity said they ‘try to be strong because of our mother’.
Today Verity has children and grandchildren of her own. ‘They keep me going, remember how lucky I am.’
Coming to speak to the Royal Commission was extremely hard for her, but she wanted to tell her story so that no child will ever again ‘get lost in the cracks’.
Verity’s hope is that soon, all children will be protected and believed.