Janet Mulquiney was so terrified of the prospect of going to the Parramatta Girls Training School she tried to jump out of a moving police car into traffic when she was being taken to the centre in 1970.
Giving evidence at the second day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mrs Mulquiney painted a harrowing picture of the institution which was home to almost 30,000 girls before its closure in 1974.
She was sent to the school after running away from her home in Balgowlah as a 15-year-old, being told “some time in an institution will do you good”.
Instead, she was sexually assaulted in an isolation cell known as the dungeon in the middle of the night.
Mrs Mulquiney, a teenager with no sexual experience, was terrified.
“I just wanted to scream," she said. “I was scared. I was convinced I was going to die.”
But the perpetrator, believed to be the superintendent at the time, simply told her: “Keep quiet. Everything will be all right if you stay quiet.”
She told the hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan, of being pushed down stairs because she was reluctant to do waitressing duty and being punched in the eye by superintendent Percival Mayhew, now deceased, after asking to go to the toilet outside the set time.
Mrs Mulquiney, now 59, said verbal abuse at the home was common.
“We were all treated as if we were dirty . . . we were told we were all sluts," she said.
“We were told we wouldn't amount to anything in our lives which was difficult to hear at that age.”
The former beauty therapist was the first to give evidence on the second day of the hearing with a further seven due to appear on Thursday.
The inmates' stories have a harrowingly familiarity. Most were sent to Parramatta Girls for being “exposed to moral danger”. The evidence to the Royal Commission includes recollections of beatings, sexual abuse, harsh discipline and dehumanising treatment.
Since leaving the institution, many women have battled mental illness, suicide attempts, marriage breakdowns, difficulty obtaining work and ongoing health problems.
Mrs Mulquiney told the hearing that her experiences at Parramatta Girls have left her shattered.
“I have never had a day in my life in those years where I haven't thought about taking my own life,” she said.
She gains strength from her three children and three grandchildren.
Of the 10 alleged perpetrators named in the hearing, only three are confirmed to still be alive: John Frank Valentine, who worked at Parramatta in the early 1970s, Noel Greenaway, a superintendent in the 1960s and a man who has not been named. Another alleged offender, a woman given the pseudonym PN, has not been located.