Christine attended a state primary school in Sydney’s south western suburbs in the 1960s. When she was eight years old, the local council’s mobile library service would visit the school each week.
The children would go into the van individually to select books. When Christine went in, she was sexually abused by the librarian, Mr Bainbridge. She didn’t tell any of her classmates. ‘It was so shameful, you didn’t really kind of talk about it with your friends.’
It seems that ‘somebody must have complained’ about Bainbridge, as one day the children were asked in class to write down if they had ever been touched inappropriately by him. Christine recorded what had happened to her in the van, and gave it to the teacher. ‘And that was the last I ever heard about it.’
It was only a week before Christine met with the Royal Commission that her mother told her that the principal had made contact with the family at the time. He said that a complaint had been made, but not that Christine had disclosed any abuse herself. After this her mother had asked about it, but Christine did not have the words to say what Bainbridge had done, so just said she’d sat on his knee. Nothing else came of the matter.
In her teenage years Christine experienced further sexual abuse, from a relative and a person she went on a date with. She told the Commissioner that the abuse by Bainbridge ‘seemed to set a pattern ... probably because I couldn’t react, and couldn’t speak about it’
She has never reported Bainbridge, or any of the other perpetrators, to police. Another student has since told her that the librarian had ‘been caught doing something, or was in jail’, but she doesn’t know any further details.
Christine told the Commissioner she had experienced depression, low self-esteem and relationship problems, and has engaged in some counselling over the years. ‘I can kind of intellectually understand that yes, I was a child, and yes, these things happen, and try not to blame myself. But I don’t feel unburdened, I suppose might be the right word. Or I don’t know that I’ve got the strategies to change how I react to things.’
As part of recent treatment for some health problems, Christine went to a pain management clinic. ‘And one of the things that the psychologist then said, is that people who have suffered chronic pain often have trauma that they haven’t resolved ... If I’m going to go into my retirement years fairly healthy I need to deal with all that stuff that’s holding me back.’