Vicky was doing some errands for her grandmother one day after school when some girls she knew asked her if she wanted to come for ‘a joy ride’ with them and their older teenage boyfriends. Vicky thought they were just going for a short ride, and told her grandmother she would be back soon.
Vicky had no idea that the car was stolen and that she and her companions would end up in a country town, 400 kilometres from Sydney. They were picked up by the police and Vicky spent two weeks in a police cell. She was 13 years old when she went to court.
‘All the parents came except my parents, so the judge said that I was exposed to moral danger and neglected, and they took me straight to [Sydney] on the train … with [a] really old, cranky lady. I can remember her. She dressed in black. Real stern … It was not good.’
Vicky spent nine months in a girls’ home in Sydney in the late 1950s. ‘You’re only a child and you go in there and you’re in shock … like, “What am I doing here? Why didn’t my mum and dad love me, come and get me?”’
When Vicky entered the girls’ home, she was examined by a doctor. ‘He says to this 13-year-old child, “How many times have you been rooted? … How many times have you been effed?” and I don’t know what to say. This is the doctor. He’s the one that has to treat you and look for you for diseases or anything.’
Vicky was screaming in pain as the doctor examined her internally, until a nurse stepped in and said to him, ‘I think you’d better stop. I think she’s a virgin. She’s only 13’.
During her time in the girls’ home, Vicky was subjected to sexual abuse, including rape, at the hands of two members of staff.
‘I did tell someone in authority, who was like [a] matron or someone … and the minute I said what [the officer] was doing, my hand went into the boiling water and she said, “Do not speak like this. You go”, and that made me “Shush”, [and] never tell, because you get punished for telling people and I wasn’t going to be punished in my life again.’
Vicky told the Commissioner that ‘there was very tough girls at [the girls’ home]. It’s lucky, because I was the baby I guess, [so] they all took on the role of me being their baby’. When the older girls noticed blood running down Vicky’s legs after she’d been sexually abused by one of the two officers, ‘they made a pact of killing him. They were working out how they could get him’.
Recalling the violence she had grown up with in her home, Vicky didn’t want to see any more bloodshed, and begged the girls, ‘Don’t kill him. You can’t hurt him’.
Once she was released from the girls’ home, Vicky began experiencing, ‘horrendous, absolutely horrific nightmares’.
One night, when she was sleeping in the same bed as her mother, ‘I thought someone was killing my mum … I could hear this woman screaming’. When her sister managed to wake her, Vicky was distraught to discover that she had been violently attacking her mother in her sleep.
Vicky described the nightmare that most often haunted her sleep. ‘The dream has always been, no face, but I can smell the dungeon slimy smell … I can feel my face getting pushed up like this and being hurt. I could never ever get the name of the person or see the face … until the psychiatrist got it.’
Once the psychiatrist was able to identify the ‘face’ in her nightmare, ‘it all came back, because he was saying, “Shut up … Shut up or you’ll be standing here forever. If you tell anyone, you’ll be in here forever”. And that dream, finally I know who it was, [and] I don’t dream that thing coming at me anymore. I’ve acknowledged of what it was with [the psychiatrist’s] help’.
It was very difficult for Vicky to come to her private session at the Royal Commission and she suffered panic attacks for some months before the day arrived.
‘I doubted every day whether I should have done this. It’s made me ill, health-wise, very, very sick … I just don’t want this all coming back. Look, I know that within a couple of days, or a week, I’m not going to be a 100 per cent, but I feel as if I could be 80 per cent better, because I don’t like this.'
‘I’m normally, well I have been putting on fronts all my life, but normally I’m happy. I love people. I muck up with people and they all come to me, you know. I just have a great lot of friends, but deep down I have my secret and sometimes I go and just sit and hide.’
Vicky told the Commissioner, ‘I feel so strong now … I didn’t want to get in the elevator … I didn’t want to be here … You’ve made me feel a lot better than what I was when I walked in … It was very hard for me, but I feel lighter … I just hope that the justice system out there can do something for the children. If they don’t, I will. Put me in charge and I’ll tell you what … Always give the job to an experienced person who knows what’s going on, and who knows what has to happen’.