photography by Belinda Mason
“So when I was sexually abused, when my father started that, it was really hard. So where do go? I had no parent. I’m isolated and because it also happened to my older sisters and nobody believed them who was going to believe me? Considering I was the one that was getting all the mental abuse from my mum as well, so who was going to believe me? It’s because I’ve been putting on all these acts for people and I’ve come to the conclusion by doing that all I’ve done is protect my father over all these years.
But I’ve suffered, so I’m now suffering from major mental depression. So that’s sort of makes it really hard, so now I’ve sort of got to– need to look after myself for my children’s sake. So that feeling of having nothing, and you’ve just got to keep shoving and shoving and shoving things down– it’s very hard and I don’t want anyone to go through that, they shouldn’t have to. There should be somebody, even just one person that they can go to.
When I was seven I tried to commit suicide. I’ve tried suffocating myself with a pillow. So it does have a major, whether it is mental—whatever abuse it is—it has a major, major impact. So over the years I learnt to control it but there have been major bits where I haven’t. Like when I left my marriage that was very hard because a lot of other abuse came out as well and one night he threatened me with a knife—to come over and kill me with a knife and he did come over and I had to get the cops and then after I literally did not sleep for four days and really fell. So it does have long term effects and it does—and that’s what people don’t realise. It’s not just effects that it has when it’s happening. It’s the everlasting effects. So it’s been a hard, hard journey.”
– Betty Burke, Australia 2015
Betty and her family lived in a bus until she was 16, then for the first time she lived in a house with running water, but no hot water or toilet. Their father sexually abused Betty and her sisters and she attempted suicide at the age of seven, all of which has a lasting impact on her life. Betty was the first person in her family to complete their year 10 certificate and went on to study nursing. This career gave her experience as a palliative care nurse, theatre nurse and manager of a group home for people with disability. She was married to a violent man but found the courage to leave and find love. Betty now lives with her new partner and their four beautiful children. She is an amazing mother who has not allowed her past to impact on her future.