Barbara had felt that her daughter, Amy, was safe during excursions with her Sydney venturer scout group. However when Amy was in her mid-teens, she told her mother that ‘something was happening’ with Keith, an older, venturer leader.
‘I spoke to my husband who was a scout leader at that time and he felt that Keith may have just looked at her the wrong way. He knew Keith through the scouting community, so I started to think Amy may be attention-seeking or jealous of her younger sister.’
Amy also told police, who advised the Department of Community Services (DOCS).
‘I received a call from DOCS but by that stage Amy backed out of wanting to pursue anything because she was feeling we didn’t believe her, and so the abuse continued for another two years’, Barbara said.
Wherever there was an opportunity, Barbara believes, Keith took advantage of the then young teenager.
‘Amy’s father was physically and verbally abusive to her at home, and Keith became her close friend. He’d tell her she was very beautiful, and that she didn’t deserve to be treated like that. He was the father figure she didn’t have and that’s how he got by with being alone with her in the car, he’d talk to her about her family problems.’
When Amy’s behaviour changed radically, Barbara arranged counselling.
‘She was doing things like rocking, head-banging, cutting herself but she never revealed anything to her counsellor. Schizophrenia runs in my family, so we thought she might be suffering a mental illness.’
One night in the 2000s, police came to the family home and took Amy away without explanation. Barbara said that by that stage her husband was no longer ‘on the scene’.
‘There was no support to explain what was happening, they just took her, it was a really horrible experience. The next morning a detective came over to explain someone had reported her sexual abuse and told me Keith had watched Amy dress and undress, as well as touched, kissed and licked her body and digitally penetrated her.’
Barbara reported that after enduring the abuse for three and a half years, Amy was in a fragile mental state and ill-equipped to cope with the ensuing court trial. At the end of it, Keith was found not guilty.
‘My daughter gave evidence, but was unfortunately quite hysterical at the time and couldn’t speak very well. Keith didn’t have to speak at all, the inequity of it all was totally ludicrous and going through that court case was as bad as the abuse itself.’
Barbara said Amy’s chances of leading a normal life have been ruined.
‘It’s taken away her childhood and ability to form normal, intimate relationships. She’s not been able to join the workforce, has post-traumatic stress disorder and is bipolar. She’s quite obese because she’s eaten herself into oblivion, doesn’t like social situations, like she’s just a total disaster.’
At the time of the court case, Amy received some victims of crime compensation. However she has struggled financially, and attending regular therapy sessions and medical appointments was a financial strain.
‘I’m living with the consequences of not taking action earlier, it affects my work and my home life.’ But the greatest disappointment for Barbara is the scouting community’s response following the trial.
‘They had a beach party to celebrate after he got off, with scout leaders and venturers. And what support did we get? Nothing, nothing at all, they were all on his side.’