Wendy’s parents were alcoholics, and from the age of three she was sent to a number of children’s homes in Victoria. At 12, in the late 1970s, she was placed in a family group home with some of her siblings. For three of the years they spent there, their house parents were Robert and Frances Martin. Wendy was repeatedly sexually abused by Robert when she was 14 or 15.
‘Lots of times Robert would touch up and that’s all. I was in my nightie one night. He put his fingers inside me and he thought that was okay. I didn’t know any different because I had never had sex before and he was an adult figure.’ It was only when Frances came into the room that Robert would stop whatever he was doing at the time.
Robert would often come into the bedroom, ‘come from behind with an erection, which I didn’t know what it was in those days, and made me feel … then he’d touch my breasts and do things that I wasn’t comfortable with, but I didn’t understand what that was’.
Wendy told the Commissioner Robert threatened that if she told Frances she’d be sent to a girls’ home in Melbourne ‘and I was scared of that. It changed my whole outlook, my self-esteem … I’ve been abused all my life, and I’ve let men abuse me, and never shown much love’.
Wendy’s brother was sexually abused by their father, and by another of their house parents, and in turn tried to abuse Wendy at an age when ‘he was too immature to get an erection, as I know what this is now’.
‘To me at the time it wasn’t bad because of Uncle Robert doing them … but now that I know that it was wrong … I feel very uncomfortable with my brother still.’
Wendy told the Commissioner that she was raped by a man when visiting her older sister’s boyfriend. When she went home to her mother, her mother sent her back to the children’s home because she was ‘a little tramp. I was treated like a dirty tramp. No one talked to me about “Oh my God, she was raped”’. Instead, Wendy was given a contraceptive, ‘without our permission … we were made to go on this needle to stop us being such tramps, and that’s how we were treated. I was 14’.
Wendy told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t enjoy sex. To this day I feel it’s a dirty thing. I don’t feel any love in there. I’ve had three husbands for that reason. Never happy’.
Wendy never reported the abuse to Frances because she ‘thought she wouldn’t believe me, and she would punish me, and I would be sent away from my siblings … my little sister, I was so protective of her and I didn’t want to lose her. She was young. She was only three or four’.
Frances was also ‘very dismissive. I could never talk to her. Severe punishments. We had very massive punishments all the time in the home. Very bad … It was horrible. At one stage we were put outside until 12, 1 o’clock in the morning in just our nighties in the freezing cold, and not allowed to talk’.
Wendy discovered that her little sister was also abused by Robert, and told the Commissioner, ‘I felt guilt for so long … she was my baby sister … she was only three … and she lived all those years with that man in the house. She was made to do things that … you know’.
Wendy is critical of the social workers who visited the home every three months. ‘I was never asked how I’d been treated by my foster parents and if I had’ve, that would have been a completely different ballgame altogether.’
Wendy recalled, ‘When I first found out about you on the internet, I was in a really bad state and I’ve actually got swept into doing this. I’ve opened up. I’m feeling a bit more confident about myself. My family’s noticing it. I haven’t sort of said why. But yeah. It’s been weird’. Watching the news and seeing other people who have come forward has ‘given me a lot of confidence and trust. Trust more than anything, because it’s a good thing …
‘There’s times when you do try to keep that away but something … a smell … something will bring it back for a little while … I think I’m opening up to the fact that it wasn’t all my fault and quite often nowadays I don’t get the reminders like I used to.’ Wendy has tried counselling many times, but her current counsellor is the first one she has trusted enough to talk to about the abuse.
‘I’ve spent a long time hiding. It’s only the stuff on the TV that’s brought me out. And ringing up the Royal Commission and talking about it brought me more into healing and wanting to go forward … The biggest thing in my life is I never make friends. I push them away … I’m ready now to let somebody in.’
Wendy told the Commissioner, ‘To this day I’m angry … that … we couldn’t talk about anything’ but now she is grateful that, ‘they’re all getting found out, and I’m proud of youse here. That you’re doing what you’re doing. And that we’ve got a voice at last’.