Judge Carolyn Henwood has reminded the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse there’s a ‘real person’ behind every story.
The judge headed a confidential counselling service - and was the inquiry's first witness.
Over two weeks, almost 30 witnesses will talk about abuse and neglect in state or faith-based institutions over a 50-year period.
Judge Henwood says photos of survivors as children melted her heart.
"When you see that, these are actual people, they are not statistics, they are little children for goodness sake."
She says a lot of people don’t understand the hardship these children experienced.
Henwood says many abuse victims never felt safe.
"They felt abandoned. They felt they lost their identity. They didn't know who they were."
Close to 30 witnesses will be called to give evidence over the next two weeks.