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Clare's story

Clare’s parents separated when she was nine or 10, in the late 1970s. Her mother went ‘off the rails’, she told the Commissioner. As a teenager, Clare’s home was a ‘very unstable environment’. Her mother abused alcohol and brought many different partners to the house.

Clare developed issues too. She had problems at school. She started truanting and shoplifting. She developed an eating disorder. When she was 15, she was referred by the school counsellor to a child psychiatrist, Dr Patrick Davidson.

Dr Davidson was the psychiatrist in charge at a psychiatric hospital for young people in Clare’s home town. Clare became an outpatient there, and saw Davidson weekly for about a year.

‘He seemed kind of fine at first. He was very warm and concerned and was kind of a bit of a contrast to the other adults in my life at the time.’

As weeks went by, he sat closer and closer during consultations. He put his arm around Clare. ‘I remember being very uncomfortable with that and I just thought oh well, it’s part of the therapy.’ He’d stroke her arm, or up and down her leg, and put his hand underneath her clothes. ‘This didn’t start immediately, it just kind of built up.’

There was never any genital contact, Clare explained.

‘I think if he’d actually tried to rape me or something I would have said something. But I didn’t. I just kind of put up with it. Like I said, it made me feel uncomfortable – like, really uncomfortable. But also he seemed so caring, and he was a psychiatrist so I thought he must know what he was doing.’

The following year, Clare dropped out of school. Her mental health started to deteriorate. At the end of that year she was admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. Talking with other girls in the ward she shared her experience of Davidson and found he’d been the same way with them. ‘We would talk about it quite openly and the staff would say “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just touchy feely, that’s just what he’s like”.’

Eventually though, she and another girl molested by Davidson, reported their concerns to the head nurse. ‘If you’ve got a problem with him you need to tell him’, she told the girls. So at her next session, Clare did. He immediately moved away from her, she said, and never did anything like that to her again.

‘But his manner towards me really changed at that point, and I felt like he was punishing me for speaking up against him.’

Clare had other concerns about the treatment she received at the hospital. It was a specific kind of therapy, which encouraged patients to develop relationships with staff that mirrored in a positive way the negative relationships they had with their parents or other adults. ‘We were kind of encouraged to, I don’t know, be attached to them’, Clare said. ‘Just the whole thing was weird and creepy.’

In the mid-1990s, the hospital became the subject of an inquiry, at which Clare gave evidence. It was at that point she realised how abusive her experience had actually been.

‘On a scale of things it was not as serious as others, but it was still really weird. And the fact that we were all there because we were emotionally and psychologically disturbed, and nobody did anything. I mean everybody knew that Davidson was a sleazebag and they just didn’t do anything. I think they were all scared of him or something, I’m not sure …

‘God knows how many people he did it to.’

The inquiry led eventually to Davidson being charged, convicted and fined. Clare appeared as a witness at his trial. The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) and police were ‘great’, she said. But her experience of being cross-examined was very difficult. Davidson’s legal team argued that Clare was motivated by a desire for revenge. ‘They just tried to destroy my credibility and said you’re emotionally disturbed … I can really understand why people who’ve been victim of sexual assault don’t want to go on the stand. Because I would say to anybody after that experience – don’t do it. Because it was horrible.

‘I don’t know what they can do to change that and I understand that you have to test witnesses and things like that, but they attempted to completely assassinate my character, and I think if I hadn’t been the kind of person that I am … I could really see how difficult it would be for some people.’

Clare identified several consequences of her experiences with Davidson.

‘I think that I – I don’t know, it was very confusing and because these people were supposed to be taking care of me, it was just … I think I would have recovered from my eating disorders and things like that quicker if I’d actually had some proper treatment. So I think that was the immediate effect …

‘I became promiscuous and things like that – I just felt like I had no – I guess I felt very confused about the boundaries of my own body. In the longer term it’s made me very wary of institutions and very sensitive to the way that they treat me, I guess.’

She said that she’d been prompted to share her story with the Commission after thinking about the way Davidson’s trial had focussed on his behaviour as an individual. ‘Which is reasonable. But he was in charge of a state facility, you know? So I guess I think it’s good to have it on the record.’

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