‘I have no doubt that the person that was following up the complaint spoke to [others] on the team and at least one other girl would have come forward and said something. I’m not the only one it happened to; it [happened] to other girls on the team too.’
Cassie was born into a sporting family in the late 1990s. Finding her passion as a ‘sporty kid’ in primary school she soon started playing competitively, and has played for a number of teams across a range of sports.
At around nine years of age Cassie joined a local sports club and met umpire and coach Leon Cox. Cox was middle-aged and good friends with the club coordinator. Initially she enjoyed playing for him as he was a good mentor.
In her early teens Cassie noticed a change in Cox’s behaviour. During practice he would often ‘brush’ past her and touch her breasts, and he would massage her while she was sitting on the sidelines during a game. She witnessed him doing this to her team mates as well. This behaviour was ‘confusing’ and ‘uncomfortable’, as although she had other male coaches she had never experienced this kind of contact before.
On one occasion when Cox massaged her Cassie tried to ‘shrug him off’ in a way that didn’t draw attention, but he continued to touch her. Her mother saw the incident and after the game questioned her about Cox, and why she had reacted so strongly. She told her mother what Cox was doing during practice and how vulnerable it made her feel.
Cassie’s mother complained about Cox to the sports club coordinator, Joshua Temple. Temple did not believe her, saying, ‘He wouldn’t do that, Leon is a good man’. Nothing more was done and Cox stayed in his position. Cassie then dropped out of the team because her parents wouldn’t allow her to continue with Cox as her coach.
Cassie joined another team, away from her old sporting club and from Cox. For a couple of months after the incident she was happy to be away from him. However she was subjected to bullying from Cox when he starting umpiring games her team were playing. She felt ‘intimidated’ by him because he was biased against her on the field.
‘It was in the final, I got hit in the mouth and I went down. He kept [the game] playing, I was bleeding and there was blood all around, and he didn’t call time … Every week he would umpire me.’
Cassie’s mother approached Temple again about the unfair refereeing but there was no response. Cassie said it was ‘like talking to a brick wall’ whenever complaints were made about Cox. To this day it still angers Cassie that Temple didn’t listen to her or her mother.
These events have affected Cassie and her family significantly. She feels responsible the for mental health issues her mother has dealt with since learning of the abuse.
Cassie has also been subjected to verbal abuse from a team mate’s boyfriend. She was told that her ‘Mum is a liar’ and that she ‘doesn’t leave things alone’. This was upsetting as she assumed that everyone else didn’t believe her or her mother.
A few years ago Cassie discontinued playing that sport, picking up another shortly afterwards. She now plays at a very high level and this, along with refereeing and coaching younger players, keeps her very busy.
Cassie is eager to start her university studies and will continue representing her sporting team. Reflecting on her experience, she recommends that clubs have a ‘better complaint system’. She believes the person being complained about should ‘step down’ during investigations and be kept away from the complainant, and suggests implementing educational programs for sporting teams so that children know what is appropriate contact and what is ‘inappropriate behaviour’.