‘I was a problem child, always wagging and in trouble … It broke my mum’s heart because I was such a bad kid.’
Alicia’s parents divorced when she was six years old. In the early 1970s, she moved to a town in New South Wales with her mother and sister. She describes this time as messy and unsettling because they constantly moved around. She didn’t see much of her father as she was growing up.
It wasn’t long before her mother met a new man, Nigel, who was violent and abusive. Alicia remembers Nigel constantly being around a group of older men and children because of his job at a photographic studio. She hated Nigel because he often hit her mother and ‘drugged her up’.
Nigel’s children often took refuge with Alicia’s family, which she found odd. She remembers one of his kids being away for weeks at a time only to return battered and bruised. Alicia now believes Nigel was using them for child pornography at the studio.
By the time Alicia was nine, she was being frequently sexually abused by Nigel. She tried to tell her mother, but Nigel had ‘brainwashed’ her to ignore everything that was right in front of her.
She started wagging school, sometimes not coming home. Her grades dropped and she couldn’t concentrate. She had no one to turn to.
In the late 70s, her mother and Nigel moved to a different suburb. She said it was because they needed to be on his ‘home turf’. It was arranged for Alicia to attend the local state high school.
Her behaviour did not improve and she started drinking and smoking marijuana daily. Alicia had very low self-esteem, so when she was befriended by the counsellor, Mr Lester, she welcomed his support.
‘He said, “If you ever feel like wagging, come and see me and we’ll talk it out” … He became like a father to me, he used to always stay back after school and talk.’
From the age of 13, Alicia was groomed by Lester. She remembers having lengthy conversations with him several times a week. He then used these meetings to sexually abuse her.
Alicia didn’t know what to do: she was being abused at home and at school. She got into trouble if she wagged, and more if she went. She was then sent to see the deputy principal for her misbehaviour.
He sexually abused Alicia for three years, threatening to expel her if she didn’t comply. She didn’t want to disappoint her mother further, so she went along with it.
In the early 80s, Alicia failed most of her classes and dropped out. ‘I was told that the best thing for me to do would be to go on the dole and go clean houses … That was my stepfather’s way of telling me I was good for nothing.
‘I had to keep Mum protected … It was the only reason I stayed.’
Nigel finally stopped abusing Alicia when she turned 18, but she didn’t tell anyone about what she’d been through. Bottling it up had a profound effect on her.
‘I self-harmed a lot … overdoses. I couldn’t keep it together any more, always pretending.’
It wasn’t until the early 90s that Alicia disclosed the abuse. She told her aunt, who became her greatest support. Since then, Alicia has seen many psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. She’s told each of them her story.
Alicia has been a frequent patient in psychiatric care. She’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and bipolar disorder. She has tried to take her own life.
Around the same time as her first disclosure, Alicia reported Nigel to the police but the matter wasn’t investigated thoroughly. She reported Lester and the deputy principal in the late 2000s, but nothing came of it.
Two years prior to her private session, Alicia approached a legal service to help with her compensation claim against the Department of Education. She was awarded $10,000 from the victims of crime scheme.