Child Sex Abuse Victim Reveals ‘Terrifying’ Path to Speaking Out-
‘It was eating me up’:
By Tessa Hardy • Court Reporter
A Queensland woman who suffered horrific abuse as a child says she felt compelled to speak out because it was slowly consuming her will to live. Lee Ann Powell suffered unthinkable abuse at the now notorious Parramatta Girls’ Training School, a former state-run institution for neglected and troubled girls in Sydney. She told Australian 9NEWS that while giving evidence at the Commission “terrified” her, “it was eating me up and I didn’t know how to cope with life”. “There were times in my life that I had hit rock bottom and I didn’t want to be here,” Ms Powell said.
Ms Powell statements comes as the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is released. In her commission testimony, she described being taken into a dungeon and sexually assaulted by the home’s superintendent and his deputy on about five occasions. Lee Ann Powell suffered unthinkable abuse at the now notorious Parramatta Girls’ Training School. The two men threatened that if Ms Powell told anyone about the abuse, they would find her and make her disappear, she said. “When I left the home I was looking over my shoulder, because I was told if I told anyone what happened to me that they would find me,” Ms Powell said. Parramatta Girls closed in 1974 following public outcry over conditions.
Ms Powell hopes the findings of the Royal Commission will mean other children will not have to suffer the way she did. “I would like to see that all children have equal rights…something I never got because we were told to be seen and not heard,” she said.The Queensland woman says she cried when she recently received an apology from the New South Wales Government and Child Welfare. “That meant more to me than anything getting money or anything like that,” she said.
Nichole McKewan is another survivor. She was placed in foster care as a baby and then abused by her foster father and foster brother for years. She was also frequently flogged by her foster mother. The abuse continued while her foster parents worked as residential staff at Boys Town – a residential school for boys in Sydney’s south, formerly known as Dunlea Centre – in the 1970s.
Ms McKewan and her brother were punished by their foster parents when they disclosed abuse to teachers at their school. She said through tears she feels validated after being told for years “we were liars”. “I did feel good that someone actually heard me,” Ms McKewan said. “We just need more people to listen.” Ms McKewan said she wanted to change policy for the next generation of children and to empower other women and men to come forward.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report on 15th December 2017. It comprised 17 volumes and 189 new recommendations. Among key recommendations were creating a new criminal offence of failing to protect children within an institution. The report also suggested establishing a new National Office for Child Safety and compelling religious ministers to report information about abuse confided to them in a confessional. More safeguards for children and checks on adults working with children within institutions were also recommended. Lisa Flynn of Shine Lawyers, who represents Ms Powell and Ms McKewan, said it was important for a national framework to be established for child safety to prevent future acts of child sexual abuse.