After her parents separated, Claudia went to live with her sister and mother. Home was some distance from the school so it was difficult for Claudia to participate in after-school or weekend activities with classmates.
When an opportunity arose to join a children’s group where transport was provided, Claudia jumped at the chance. Stephen Grant, the group’s leader, drove her home after meetings and Claudia came to enjoy his company and their conversations. She wrote him letters, confiding her dreams for a career in the arts, and she began to see him as a father figure.
One evening in the late 1970s when she was in her early teens, Claudia was being driven home by Grant. He suddenly pulled over in a secluded area and told her that they had to be careful.
‘I was thinking, “What is he talking about?” … I wish I had copies of my letters, but it’s probably best I don’t. But if I had copies of the letters that I sent him maybe I could see where it was that I went wrong, because I gave him the wrong impression and I know that, because I know how stunned I was when he was saying these things to me.’
Grant put his arm around Claudia and began to kiss her and touch her body. She didn’t know what to say and she didn’t want to upset him. ‘That was my opportunity to say, “What the hell are you talking about?” but I was unable to do that and it just all went on from there.’
Some months later, Claudia went to James Lyon, the manager of the group, for advice on what to do. He offered to drive her home and then pressed for details about what Grant was doing. Lyon then abused Claudia in the same way she described. Both men’s abuse continued for three years.
Claudia eventually left the group. In her mid-teens, she’d developed bulimia and she’d been seeing a counsellor through a government-funded youth mental health service. Then as soon as she turned 16 the counsellor coerced her into having sex with him. ‘From that it would be hard to see that counselling would be helpful’, Claudia said.
Claudia described her life over following years as ‘out of control’. Her risk-taking behaviours involved self-harm, alcohol, drugs and sex. She married and had two ‘beautiful children’, then slowly gave up self-medicating and sought out support.
In the mid-2000s, Claudia’s second husband encouraged her to seek support from a specialist sexual assault counselling service. It took some years to gather courage but from that initial contact, Claudia made a statement to police and both Grant and Lyon were interviewed. Grant immediately admitted his guilt and was sentenced to two years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 months. He later appealed the sentence and the non-parole period was decreased.
The sentencing judge acknowledged Grant’s admission of guilt and apparent remorse but gave little regard to testimonials written on his behalf in which the authors opined that Claudia’s allegations were vindictive.
Lyon, when interviewed by police, denied all allegations against him, and the matter didn’t proceed to court. No action was ever taken against the counsellor despite Claudia including him in her statement to police.
Claudia told the Commissioner that she was impressed by the professionalism of police, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and services for victims of crime. ‘They were all very, very good.’
She received victims of crime compensation but was disappointed that the maximum amount payable was significantly less than what was available in other states.
Claudia said she’d been working in a good job for two years, but felt her earning potential had been delayed by 20 years. She was now involved in the entertainment industry fulfilling the hopes she’d had as a teenager, but she wondered what might have been if she’d started earlier. ‘No compensation is ever going to bring you back your loss.’