real life

'I was robbed of my childhood.'

Trigger warning: This post contains details of child abuse that may be distressing for some readers.

Looking at Rebekah King today, you’d never guess at the unspeakable abuse the happy, healthy mother-of-three has survived.

But when she was only six years old her mother, an alcoholic sex worker, gave the little girl and her brothers up to NSW children’s services. At age eight, Rebekah became a ward of the state — before eventually being placed with her brothers in what Rebekah still calls the “house of hell”.

What ensued was more than a decade of harrowing physical, emotional and sexual abuse that Rebekah says ‘robbed her of her childhood’.

Foster care petition Australia
Rebekah King with one of her sons. (Photo: Supplied)

Speaking to Mamamia today, she describes her foster carer was a cruel, abusive woman who locked her in a garage for most daylight hours.

“She was negligent and evil all the time all the time,” Rebekah says. “I was the scapegoat for everything.”

The woman also made a game of “blatantly favouriting” Rebekah’s brothers and foster sister over her.

“She would do things like, she knew that pink was my favourite colour so on my birthday she would buy me a purple dressing gown and my foster sister a pink dressing gown- even though it wasn’t anything near my foster sister’s birthday,” Rebekah says. “She’d purposefully leave my stuff on the garage so the dogs could chew it and piss on it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The woman also beat Rebekah regularly, dragged her by her hair and rubbed Rebekah’s younger brother’s face in vomit.

Little Rebekah was sexually abused twice, including once in a group home, news.com.au reports.

Foster care petition Australia
Rebekah as a child. (Photo: Supplied)
It was clear that the ‘carer’ didn’t care for Rebekah at all — but she did, apparently, have another motivation.
“After a while I asked her, ‘Why do you foster us if you don’t like us?,'” Rebekah recalls. ” And she said, ‘I do it for the money’. That was the first time that I found out that people got paid to look after me.”
Foster care petition Australia
Rebekah. (Photo: Supplied)
ADVERTISEMENT
Despite the abuse — which was so damaging that Rebekah attempted suicide by age 13, according to news.com.au — NSW authorities did nothing to remove the children from the woman’s care.

“The scary thing is, this foster family was classed as an ‘experienced, qualified foster family’,” Rebekah says.

Related: Read Rosie Waterland’s post The little girl that nobody wanted here.

Years later, having recovered from the horrifying abuse she was forced to endure, Rebekah now sees herself as “one of the lucky ones” — because she lived to tell the tale.

In recent years, she points out, two toddlers quietly drowned in care in NSW: Braxton Slager-Lewin and Lachlan Leslie.

Although there’s been no suggestion those deaths were  intentional, questions have been raised about why those homes had insufficient safety gates around their pools, and Slager-Lewin’s parents told ABC programme 7.30 their son’s death showed the foster care system is broken.

Related: Parents of toddler who died in foster care demand answers.

“It was a dirty, rotten $500 swimming pool that was green and should never have been left in a house that little kids were in,” the child’s father Johnny Slager said. “I don’t understand, I’m very concerned about that whole situation.”

Braxton Slager-Lewin.

Separately, the Productivity Commission notes several hundred children in foster care were abused last year; that staggeringly high figure has prompted concern from National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell.

“Unfortunately in Australia we’ve had a bit of a history of long-term foster care and that really isn’t an ideal situation,” Ms Mitchell said in January, ABC News reports. “It is very concerning that the most vulnerable children in our community are subject to abuse at a time when the state is charged with looking after them and removing them from abusive situations.”

Ms Mitchell called at the time for more investment in “permanent, stable care solutions for children so they’re not washing around service systems”.

Foster care petition Australia
Rebekah with her loving family now (Photo: Supplied).
ADVERTISEMENT

So concerned is Rebekah about the need for change that she’s calling on NSW Premier Mike Baird and NSW Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard to overhaul the foster system.

She’s started a petition on Change.org demanding that a voice for families and victims is more clearly heard within the system, and calling for the introduction of an independent foster care commission to “crack down and investigate abuse of foster kids”.

Related: Abbey was 17 when she wrote this poem about her father. Months later, she was dead.

“After my childhood was taken from me by this awful neglect I can’t stay silent watching it ruin and take the lives of any more kids,” Rebekah writes on Change.org. “No action has been taken to fix the lack of investigation that’s allowing this happen.”

Since founding the petition, Rebekah has been contacted by countless of other Australians telling similar stories of abuse and neglect.

“The problem is massive, and it’s really scary,” she says.

“We can’t allow more deaths to be quietly ignored.”

See Rebekah’s public Facebook page here and sign the petition here.

Bravehearts helps survivors of child sexual abuse. If you need help, call them on contact them online

Related content:

 “Dear little sister, I’m so sorry.”

A survivor of a paedophile ring tells her story.