Trigger warning: This post deals with sexual assault.
Cowering in a corner of the dungeon, I covered my naked bleeding body with my arms.
"You're not worth spitting on," the man looming above me snarled.
His name was Frank Valentine and he'd just raped me.
Sobbing uncontrollably, I watched him walk out of the cell, slamming the heavy iron door shut and locking it.
At just 15 years old, I was shattered.
My siblings and I had been taken from our parents when I was just five and I'd ended up in a Sydney girls' institution.
Valentine, in his thirties, was one of the bosses.
"Watch him, he's mean," another girl had warned me.
One day I refused to work when a female officer gave me a scrubbing brush and bucket in the dorm.
"I'm not scrubbing your floors," I yelled.
She got Valentine.
He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me out of the room.
"You're going to the dungeon," he sneered.
We came to a flight of stairs.
I felt a shove and then tumbled down the stairs.
I was crumpled at the bottom, groaning in pain, when Valentine grabbed me by the hair again.
He lifted me to my feet, pulling out a clump of hair, dragged me to another flight of stairs and threw me down them.
Dazed, bleeding and bruised, I was in no state to resist.
Now he'd pulled me along a corridor to a cell, opened the door and threw me inside.
It was a brick and concrete dungeon and there were actually rings fixed to the wall for convict shackles.
I thought he was going to hit me again.
"Get your clothes off or I'm going to bash you," he snarled.
"No!" I gasped in terror, realising he was going to rape me.
"Then I'll rip them off," he snapped.
He punched me a couple of times in the face and then smashed my head against the wall.
I felt completely powerless.
Fighting back tears, I removed my clothes and sat on the floor.
When I was naked and shivering, Valentine pushed me down and raped me.
I felt dirty, disgusting and worthless.
Valentine left me in that cell for three days.
There was no toilet, nothing to sleep on and the cell was infested with cockroaches.
Other girls looked at me with pity when I got out.
They knew. I wasn't Valentine's only target.
It didn't cross my mind to tell anyone in authority.
Most of my life I'd been treated like dirt.
A few months later, I refused to work again.
In the dorm one evening I jumped on my bed and yelled: "I'm not an animal. I'm not going to do what you tell me!"
Some of the other girls yelled encouragement and joined in.
Grabbing my hair, he dragged me to an isolation cell.
I knew what was going to happen.
"Take your clothes off," he snapped. "If you don't do it, I'll bash you."
The memory of the vicious beating he'd given me before was still fresh.
Scared, I took my clothes off and got on the floor.
Valentine raped me again as I sobbed.
The next time I defied the staff I thought Valentine was going to kill me.
Furious, he dragged me to a call.
"I'll teach you this time," he snarled, bashing my head against the walls.
Once more the filthy animal raped me.
"I hate your guts. I'm going to tell," I sobbed, knowing it was an empty threat even as I made it.
"You do and it'll be worse next time," he threatened. "And nobody would believe you."
He was right.
I spent the next few years trying to keep out of his way.
When I was 18, I was discharged, but I had no skills or education.
Within a week I was selling my body to pay for food and shelter.
I drank and took drugs to cope.
Over the next decade I married two men, had six kids, attempted suicide several times and was in and out of psychiatric units.
It wasn't until my thirties that I was finally reunited with all my siblings and got clean.
Then, aged 32, I met someone kind and decent.
Peter was buying a car from my sister.
We got chatting, hit it off.
I told him about my life, what Frank Valentine had done.
"If you ever want to make a complaint to the police, I'll support you," he vowed.
Peter and I got married and had a boy and a girl.
I suffered constant nightmares and flashbacks.
Painting art inspired by my indigenous background gave me something to focus on, but I couldn't escape the memories.
Valentine hadn't just abused me, he and the system robbed me of my family, my mental health and my future.
So when the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was announced, I decided to tell my story.
"I survived but so many girls didn't," I told Peter. "I'm speaking out for them."
After giving my testimony at the Commission I felt heard and decided to give a police statement too.
Detectives presented me with a line-up of photos.
"Who was the man that abused you?" an officer asked.
I picked Valentine out instantly.
"I'll never forget that face," I shuddered.
Other victims – men and women – came forward.
In March this year, Valentine, now 78, faced trial.
He denied numerous charges of sexual and violent assault against seven girls and one boy.
His wife, Maris, walked with him into court, offering her support.
And his five kids and friends wrote glowing letters of reference saying what a kind and good man he was.
I felt sick.
"He wasn't when he was raping me and the other children in that hell hole," I choked to Peter.
Horrifically, despite allegations of abuse, Valentine had gone on to become a senior child welfare public servant.
Unable to face him, I gave my evidence via video link from Queensland.
He was found guilty of 21 offences of rape, buggery, indecent assault and assault against six of us.
In May, at Campbelltown District Court the Judge jailed him for 22 years with a non-parole period of 13 years.
I was overjoyed.
"It's justice for the kids that suicided or drunk and drugged themselves to death because of what he did," I sighed to Peter.
We'll never know the full scale of Valentine's crimes and I've no doubt there were many other victims.
In court it was said Frank Valentine is a Christian.
So, he knows all about hell.
I hope he rots there.
Because that's surely where he's heading.
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