Lorri's Story
My childhood set me up to be a walking target

When I was 15, I got glandular fever and I was so sick I was hospitalised. Shortly afterwards I left school and got a job in a bank. I moved out of home into a boarding house a friend lived in. My parents got the police to come to my work and take me home.

This happened several times, and I lost my job because they said they couldn’t have the police turning up.

Then I got a job in an insurance company. I went to the police station and said I had left home and I wasn’t going back. They got my parents – who told me that the police had said to them, “You can’t tie her to the bedpost. Let her go for a few days and she’ll come crawling back.” But I was determined not to go home.

I went nursing, and I had a mental breakdown – though I didn’t realise that’s what it was at the time. I kept fainting and having terrible headaches. One day I overheard one of the nurses say, “There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s just having a nervous breakdown”. At that point, I walked out of the hospital and didn’t go back.

One day my father came to the boarding house I was living in and asked me to go home, but I wouldn’t. I was arrested and charged with being a neglected child – because I was neglecting myself. In court the judge asked my mother if she wanted me at home. My mother said, “If there’s one little part of her that wants to come home, we do”. The judge asked me if there was a little part of me that wanted to go home, and I said no. He got really angry and said I was ungrateful and that I was lucky I had parents who wanted me. But nobody asked me why I didn’t want to go home.

I was put into the custody of child welfare and sent to the juvenile maximum detention centre. They put me in a cell, and for the first time in my life I felt safe. I loved it. I felt I had my first childhood there. I could be an irresponsible child, and it was lovely.

I had a terrible pain inside and the only way I could get a break from it was to be smashed. At 16, I was drinking all the time and smoking three packets of cigarettes a day.

It’s very easy for people to do whatever they like to you when all you are interested in is being out of it. Nobody’s looked after you, and you don’t know how to look after yourself. You don’t know how to cope with the world. You just mimic other people’s behaviour to learn how to be a grown up.

As well as being a victim of violence I was already an abuser myself. My girlfriend, Millie, and I once had an argument, and the next minute we were having a punch up. We used to carry knives, and one night we were at a party and I was trapped in a bedroom and the hall was lined with guys. They were Millie’s mates so they weren’t going to touch her, but one of them was going to rape me. I was screaming for her but she couldn’t get through the hall. I heard her say “use your bloody knife, you silly bitch”. I got my knife out of my boot and was holding it, terrified and shaking, saying “leave me alone, I don’t want to hurt you”. But this guy came for me. I ripped his thigh open with my knife. He was bleeding and screaming, and everyone was in shock. Millie came though and grabbed me, and we ran off.

When I turned 18, the police picked me up yet again for being drunk and disorderly. They took me down to the station and put me in a cell. I said, “You can’t keep me here. You’ve got to get the child welfare people.” They said, “But we can, because you’ve had your 18th birthday.”

I realised this would keep happening. So I left the city, and got a bar job in a little town in a farming community. The people there saw themselves as quite middle class, and I was just a barmaid and not good enough for their sons. I was raped by some men there, but when I went to the police, they refused to do anything about it.

So I went back to Fremantle and hooked up with a girlfriend who was staying at a big old house. One day I woke up to find a whole lot of guys round me who were going to gang rape me. I curled up in the foetal position and started whimpering like a small child. One of the men protected me from the others. He was a heavy duty crim, and they weren’t going to take him on.

Next day he asked me to live with him, and I did because I thought that once I belonged to him no one else would touch me. But when he was away, I’d be back on the streets.

I knew a woman who wanted to get away from her violent husband. He was arrested and put in jail. She packed up the kids and took off to Adelaide, and I went with her. I hitchhiked back, but I wanted to return to Adelaide, so I decided to work as a prostitute to get some money. I was down at a hotel with some friends, and an old guy picked me up. I went back to his hotel room. I was terrified but acting tough. I made him put the $20 on the table first, and then he started taking his clothes off. I just freaked out. Now I understand that he reminded me of my father, but I didn’t understand that then. I grabbed the money and took off. That was the beginning and end of my career as a prostitute.