‘From the outside I’m the kind of person that you would probably look at and go, ‘Well, she’s got her shit together, she’s doing okay, all things being equal”.’
Alexa watched with interest as the Royal Commission began its hearings in 2013. ‘But then when I started looking at other people’s stories and watching their stories and really paying attention to the details of some of the … ways their lives have been impacted, I thought to myself, “That’s really my story”.’
‘And for all the bravado that I have about how well I’ve managed, really, I may well be living life, but I’m living life at a very minimum level and I saw that minimum level reflected in the people I was watching … And I just decided to reach out and share my story and also connect, I guess, to a community of people who were all sharing the same experience.’
Alexa attended a primary school in regional New South Wales in the early 1980s. She was sexually abused by her teacher, Mr Bateman, when she was about eight years old. Alexa promptly suppressed the memories of the abuse.
In her teen years she was very sensitive to the attention of men. ‘There was always some kind of subconscious wondering about whether or not something very dodgy had happened, but it was not available to my waking consciousness’, Alexa told the Commissioner.
‘There were many, many instances actually, as a teenager, where it almost felt like there were men in positions of responsibility or authority actually testing the boundary of whether or not they could take advantage of me … That theme definitely continued.’
Memories of the sexual abuse by Bateman resurfaced spectacularly when Alexa was in her mid-20s. ‘I used to take a lot of drugs and drink a lot of alcohol. I was extremely shy and insecure and reserved as a teenager and in my early 20s and the only way I could open myself up was to be extremely drunk or extremely high.’
One night while she was out on an ‘archetypal bender’ Alexa suddenly started to experience vivid and detailed flashbacks of sexual abuse, which had happened in a storeroom at the back of her classroom. She remembered Mr Bateman. She suddenly recalled having a belt tightened around her throat to stop her crying out. Even as she began sobering up over the next eight hours the memories continued to invade her mind.
Alexa believes she had put up strong mental barriers against the memories of abuse which the drugs had somehow broken down.
Life became a struggle. Alexa experienced severe depression and anxiety. Her life suffered as various impacts of the abuse played themselves out. ‘Forty one years old - don’t manage to hold a job down for more than a year and a half, don’t have a house, don’t have a relationship, and if I think about it deeply enough I would say that the majority of that can probably be attributed to the ramifications of what happened when I was a child.’
Alexa sought help from a counsellor, but retreated from the sessions as the psychologist tried to get her to confront her memories of abuse head on. Years later she returned to the same counsellor and had more success with a different approach to healing. Alexa has also travelled and looked for help among alternative healers and therapies.
‘I’ve tried everything - off the beaten track and on the beaten track.’
Yoga and meditation have also helped. ‘I generally don’t think about it anymore. I made the decision after my last round of therapy, and after some pretty heavy terrifying work that I did with some shaman in the jungle, that I would look at the whole experience as an experience that happened in the past, and what’s done is done, and that’s that, and I need to essentially get on with my life. And of course from a conscious perspective that’s great.’
‘Obviously there are unconscious or subconscious patterns that keep repeating themselves that I’ve not yet gotten above, in the context of keeping a job, having a home, holding down a relationship et cetera.’
‘But for all intents and purposes my everyday life is pretty calm, pretty mellow.’