Camille's story

‘Isn’t that the million dollar question: how did he know about me and about Whitford?’

As a child, Camille was heavily involved in extracurricular activities in her regional Victorian town. She liked to hang out with friends and she performed well in school. Although her mother was loving, her father was abusive and Camille believes that’s why she kept herself busy.

In the early 1990s things at home deteriorated. Camille’s father became more abusive and her mother grew distant. Kevin Smith, an older boy across the street, started being nice to Camille, and over a period of three years until her mid-teens, Camille was groomed and then sexually assaulted by Smith.

When she was 14, Camille received a phone call from police officer, Ben Whitford.

‘He told me that Kevin was bad news, but that he wasn’t. He wanted me to meet with him but I said no … I was scared that Kevin would know that I had been talking to the police.’

Camille was 16 when Smith broke into her house and raped her. Unable to cope with the abuse anymore, she went to the police and reported him. Her statement detailed the many times she’d been raped, and she was disappointed to later find that the police only wanted to charge Smith for the most recent assault.

Smith was charged with aggravated burglary and rape. Camille was told that several other victims had also reported Smith to police and that there would be trials for each victim.

At Smith’s committal hearing, the Office of Public Prosecutions informed Camille they had ‘lost’ her file, and that her case would be dropped. She found this extremely upsetting. Smith was convicted in relation to one other victim and was placed on the sex offenders register for life.

About a year later, Camille ran into Whitford while she was walking across a park near her home one night. He told her he’d lost his keys and asked if she could help find them. They began talking about her case, and then Whitford walked her home.

‘He asked if my parents would be home or if they were up. I said they would be home but probably not up … He walked me inside. I thought he was going to leave but he didn’t.’

Camille said that she and Whitford had ‘consensual sex’, but looking back she realised how inappropriate his behaviour had been. She felt his age – he was 10 years older – and position compromised her ability to give proper consent.

Camille finished school and moved to another city for work. She married in her early 20s, and then moved overseas with her husband for several years, and then had children.

Camille said she has a tendency to avoid problems by overworking. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but has a good relationship with a counsellor who she describes as her ‘lifeline’.

In the mid-2010s, Camille approached Victoria Police and asked them to revisit the assaults by Smith. Smith was subsequently charged, and at the time of speaking with the Royal Commission, the matter was proceeding to trial.

At the same time, Camille also reported Whitford’s conduct to police. The taskforce assigned to the case took ‘a dim view’ of his actions, and she believed they were taking the matter seriously.

Camille received a small victims of crime compensation payment, something which felt like ‘a slap in the face’.

She is currently taking legal advice as to whether she can bring a civil case against the state for losing the criminal file back in the late 1990s because this caused years of unnecessary delay in bringing Smith to justice.

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