Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

Standing in her shoes

Standing in my shoes

Hello I am Cheryl, what’s your name?  Are you a mum, I have 2 kids, do you want to see a picture of them.  My kids are great what about yours.  I don’t get to see them very often. 

Last time, I went to see them I took them a packet of chips and I got told off for that.  I bet you give your kids chips, don’t you.   I always get in trouble when I see my kids; I want them to come and live with me.  I love them.  It’s not fair that they took them away from me.

Cheryl is in her 40’s and lives alone in a housing trust unit.  She receives a disability support pension but is not entitled to any supports from disability services because she is classified as having a borderline intellectual disability. 

 

When Cheryl was a child she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her father and brother and numerous men who moved in and out of the family home.  The result is that Cheryl now experiences very high levels of stress and anxiety.  She has had a number of relationships. 

 

When she was in her early 20’s she had 2 children, two girls.  Both of these children were removed from her care when they were babies because she was seen as not being able to provide good enough parenting to the children.  Each of the father’s of the children had been charged previously with child sexual assault and violence related crimes. 

 

It was seen that Cheryl was unable to protect her children from both the violence and sexual assaults and so her children were removed from the family home.  She was also experiencing violence and abuse at the hands of these men, but because this was what she had experienced all her life, she didn’t know that it was not ok. 

Why did they take my kids away from me?  I didn’t do nothing wrong.  I just needed a little bit of help that is all.  It was just not right…. what they did to me. 

I am going to tell the judge and he is going to send ALL of them to jail.  I keep telling the police what happened to me but they don’t listen to me.  It’s not fair, I want justice.

Cheryl has over a 10 year period made numerous complaints to police about her childhood experiences in an effort to get justice and in an effort to regain her children.  Each time there has been an investigation into her claims but each time there has not been enough evidence to proceed with charges against her father and brothers or any of the other men involved. 

 

It is also deemed that she is not a reliable witness because while she tells a consistent story about the sexual assault she experienced as a child, there is no other information about dates, times and places of these occurring and it is over 30 years since the events.

When I was a kid my father would bring men to the school for me to have sex with at lunch time.

That was wrong wasn’t it?

Often when women say things like this they are checking to see if what they are saying is right.  They are looking for validation that as a child they should not have experienced this abuse.  They have only their standpoint of experience to know the world from and are seeking to understand if their idea that it was wrong is ok.

They would just have sex with me any place any time you know.  Sometimes they would give me some money or something.  Mum never stopped them, she said it was alright.  Just do it she would say and shut up girl.

Then I ran away from home and just lived on the streets for a while.  That is when I met my daughter’s father, the first one, you know.  For a while he lived with me and took care of me and all of that.  He was older than me, a lot older than me.  Do you think that was wrong?

When Cheryl moved off the street and lived with this man, she was given a unit through a homeless service.  The man she was in relationship with was in his early 60’s. It was a violent and dangerous relationship and when she fell pregnant he had pushed her to have a termination.

No way, that is murder.  I am not going to murder my babies.  That’s what I told him and I meant it. No way no way I was going to keep this baby.  I wanted to be a mum.

He hit the baby when she as a few weeks old, then left.  As a result Cheryl was left alone to raise her child.  Because her own experience of being a child was so abusive she did not have many ideas about what good parenting looked like. 

 

This meant that she did not always keep the house clean or know when and how to wash, feed or play with her child.  It was neglect by omission rather than intentional abuse. She was not given any supports to keep her daughter. The child was removed from her care and placed into the care of her parents.

What are they doing?   Don’t they know had what my father did to me.  It is not safe for my daughter.  No one believes what he did to me. It’s not right.  You believe me don’t you?

A couple of years later Cheryl met another older man who moved into her unit and lived off of her income.  He was again a violent man who controlled those around him with violence.  Within a few months Cheryl was again pregnant.  This time the man stayed but as Cheryl went to her neo natal visits the nurse suspected that she had an intellectual disability and referred her to the social workers in the hospital. 

 

They became involved in Cheryl’s life and undertook some evaluations about her social and emotional situation and identified the vulnerability she had in the relationship which would put the child at risk.  They knew that Cheryl’s first child had been taken into care.

 

When the baby was born the child was removed from Cheryl’s care within 6 hours.  This sent Cheryl into deep depression.  She put on a large amount of weight and became reclusive in her house. 

 

Her partner stayed and was increasingly violent and abusive.  He claims the Carers Pension for caring for Cheryl.  She started to have panic attacks which is finally diagnosed as a part of a mental illness.  The result of this is that Cheryl has been unable to maintain contact with her children. 

It’s not fair.  Why did they take my kids away from me I am a good mum?  They should give my children back to me.  It’s not right it’s just not right.  I am going to tell the judge give my children back to me.  I am their mum. Give the children back to their mother.

WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention Program is funded by the Department of Communities, QLD. & the WWILD Victims of Crime Disability Training Program is funded by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, QLD

WWILD Phone: (07) 3262 9877 Email: info@wwild.org.au Address: 211 Hudson Road, WOOLOOWIN QLD 4030 Contact hours: Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm