‘I refer to her as the Great White [shark], which was particularly perfect for her. Someone who takes your heart and soul and stumps all over it.’
Daria’s home was always crowded but ‘full of love’. She was born into a large, devout family, living in a regional town of Victoria during the late 1950s. Daria and her family lived in the same street as the Catholic school, church and presbytery. Her family was heavily involved with the school and the church.
When Daria was eight years old, she came into contact with a nun called Sister Louisa. Daria described her Grade 4 teacher as the ‘perfect paedophile’. Louisa ‘always drank with the male teachers’ and was ‘pretty and young’. During lessons, however, Louisa would always ask Daria and her classmates about sex or seeing family members naked. Daria said she was ‘scared’ to answer yes or no.
Halfway through the year, Louisa’s questions led to sexual abuse. Daria said the abuse always took place ‘in the piano room’ at school and sometimes with multiple students. On one occasion, Daria and five other children were called into the room where Louisa tongue kissed and fondled each student. Daria said she ‘watched in fear’.
‘I have a running video in my head, continually, that I fight off every day of my life. [She’s] slobbering all over him and his genitals … She turned and did the same thing to me and I swear she’s a lizard. I can still feel her tongue down my throat. That is not what any girl is supposed to experience as her first kiss.’
Daria never told anyone about the abuse. The abuse continued for the remainder of the school year and she never saw much of Sister Louisa after moving into Grade 5. Daria explained that her behaviour changed drastically from an ‘avid reader, good student’ to a student that constantly fell asleep in class and got in trouble regularly.
Daria became an ‘angry’ teenager who grew into an angry adult. Daria has suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety for many years. She continues to have panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and isolates herself from others.
Daria feels guilty that Louisa went on to abuse other children. She believes that she had the power to stop Louisa and can’t forgive herself for not reporting Louisa sooner.
In the late 1980s when Daria was 30, she first disclosed the details of the abuse to her husband. It was a traumatic experience, but Daria is happy that her husband knows of her problems and the abuse. She feels guilty that the abuse has affected her life so much that her children don’t want any contact with her. Daria explained that she will spend days in bed because she’s unable to get up and go outside. When her children were young, she would often turn them away so she could continue sleeping in bed.
‘Nothing will ever convince me that I didn’t do the wrong thing because I didn’t ever go and get help. Doesn’t matter what anyone says.’
Shortly after disclosing the abuse to her husband, Daria went to the local police and reported Sister Louisa. She was told that the police couldn’t take any action as the ‘abuse was so long ago’ and there wasn’t enough evidence. Daria found this process distressing and was reluctant to take any further action for several years after.
In the mid-2000s, Daria made a complaint to Towards Healing. She was offered $25,000 in compensation, but rejected this amount. Daria is currently working with a lawyer to construct a claim against the Catholic nuns. She said the matter is ongoing.
‘I really do believe she robbed me from what I could have done. I can’t ever get that back.’