Hospital fails to help a distraught sex abuse survivor
CRYING, standing alone in the corner of the Rockhampton Hospital Emergency Department, a 50-year-old woman felt just as isolated as when she was sexually abused as a child.
After to trying to deal with the trauma her whole life, she recently started a statement with police to report the abuse, but recalling the incident has brought out post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I've brought my kids up and now it's time for me to get better because it's affected my relationships and everything else," the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
She has not spoken about the incident since she was a child when her mum chose to ignore her claims of sexual assault between the ages of seven and 11.
Her mother not only failed to act, she started dating the accused man, which led to the victim leaving home at 14 to live on the streets - she has hardly been in contact with her family since.
While she has struggled her whole life, she hadn't any noticeable psychological issues until she started giving her statement to police - her PTSD has since been triggered several times.
"I've been out and I've had to come straight home because something has triggered me off," she said.
"I have nights where I have nightmares where he is in my room. I was bashing all the walls in my room because he said 'he was coming for me and he wasn't finished'."
On the morning of October 8, she woke up trembling - she soon became short of breath and as her chest tightened, she couldn't stop shaking and crying.
After hours trying to deal with how she was feeling on her own, she called the police station she is in the process of giving a statement to and was told "to go to the emergency department".
She arrived at the hospital about 1pm and explained to the hospital staff she couldn't stop crying and it could have been brought on by her statement to police.
She was told to wait.
"I've never been so scared in my whole life," she said.
She cried for three hours in the waiting room - her only offer of assistance was from a member of the public who gave her a tissue.
"I have no words for what I experienced," she said.
Feeling as if help would never be offered, she left the hospital and was able to get a psychology appointment but she worried others in her situation might not be so "lucky".
"I could've walked out on the street and jumped in front of a car," she said.
"I will never go to ED again.
"I'm sure that there is a lot of other people that have suffered like I did and it's very sad to think that we are not important."
She said there should be a process in place to support people in need.
"My life has changed now - where could I want to possibly go when I have an attack again?," she said.
Rockhampton Hospital acting executive director Celia Anich said she was sorry to hear of the woman's distress.
"It is disappointing that she feels let down by hospital staff," Ms Anich said.
"We have apologised, and have committed to give her the support she needs."
She said while the ED is "definitely the place to go for crisis care", "during busy times our sickest and most critically unwell patients need to be seen first".
The woman, taking control of her own mental health and recovery, has started an online blog and attends therapy sessions to keep her strong throughout the police statement process.
After suffering for decades, she wants to see the man who sexually abused her and her sister for four years to face the consequences of his actions.
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.