Charlotte grew up living ‘on the poverty line’ with her mother and stepfather, who both drank heavily. Her parents would often entertain, and Charlotte was sexually abused by a man attending a party, while her mother was passed out drunk.
She remembers being happy at her first primary school. In the late 1970s, when she was around 12 years old, the family moved and she started at a government school in Melbourne. ‘The day I started was the day my whole life turned to shit.’
The other students there were from wealthy families and she felt like ‘a fish out of water’. ‘I didn’t realise I was rubbing noses with all these beautiful people.’ She feels that her new teacher, Mr Grantley, wanted ‘to put me in my place’, as he would ridicule her.
Shortly after Charlotte arrived at the school Grantley began sexually abusing her, including digital penetration. She believes some of the other girls at the school saw what was happening but did not say anything, and that the principal was aware of Grantley’s abusing. This abuse stopped when she finished primary school.
After the abuse Charlotte began dressing down to avoid drawing attention to herself, and would wash obsessively every night trying to feel clean. ‘He just robbed me of my brains.’
Charlotte was in an abusive relationship for many years which resulted in children, and she does not have good relationships with her children now.
She did not disclose the abuse at the time but wishes that she had done so. In the 1980s she attempted to make a report to the education department. The woman she spoke to asked why it had taken so long for her to report it, and this discouraged her.
When she contacted police one of the officers she spoke had a similar name to Grantley’s and this distressed her so much that she could not pursue the matter. Since this she has not made any further reports or sought compensation.
Charlotte lives with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. ‘I’m just wrong. Everything’s wrong.’
A few years after making these reports to police and the department Charlotte engaged with counselling through a support organisation for survivors of child sexual abuse, which she found helped ‘a little’.
‘I think I’m just disturbed. I think he just fucked it all up for me ... I have so much self-loathing, I don’t feel like I’ll ever get better. But I won’t stop trying.’