Fiona's story

In the early 1970s, when she was in her mid-teens, Fiona started playing sport at the YMCA centre near her home in suburban Sydney. She and her friend, Ann-Marie, were approached by David, the centre manager, who told them he could improve their confidence and playing ability by doing massage and chiropractic therapy. David took the girls to a room upstairs in the centre and sexually abused them. He did the same thing again several times over many months.

Fiona told the Commissioner that David was very convincing. ‘He massaged our backs and neck and seemed to know what he was doing.’ She said it wasn’t long before David was getting them to take their clothes off and also to massage him. ‘He’d roll over and he had an erection. We looked the other way.’ David told Fiona that her fallopian tubes were blocked and suggested she masturbate. ‘Then he’d ask if it was working.’ He massaged Ann-Marie’s stomach after telling her she had constipation.

One day Fiona was taken into the room alone. David asked her to undress and lie on the table. ‘He put his hand on my genital area, then he was moving his hand in and out of my vagina. It was very rough and unpleasant, but he said he needed to do it because of my fallopian tubes.’ When David stopped, Fiona was bleeding. ‘He said that was normal and I should go home and shower. So I dressed and walked home feeling very dirty.’

Fiona felt that she should have seen what was happening and stopped herself getting into that situation. ‘I was convinced it was my fault and that I was stupid.’

She discussed it with another friend the next day, but didn’t otherwise disclose it at the time. ‘My friend and I were confused as to what had happened. We both thought I couldn’t be pregnant, but we agreed that I’d lost my virginity. We didn’t think it was rape, but we didn’t know.’ Fiona said she was terrified and didn’t go back to the YMCA. She didn’t know if Ann-Marie suffered further abuse from David. ‘He picked me because I had low self-esteem and he could see it straight away.’

Fiona told the Commissioner that she put the abuse behind her until the mid-2000s, when she was struck one day by a group of teenage girls at a sports event she was involved with. ‘I thought, “What was I doing at that age?” These girls were sexually developed, but they didn’t understand.’

In the mid-2000s, Fiona sought psychiatric help for problems now impacting upon her and her ability to be with her husband and children. ‘I fell to pieces. I couldn’t sleep. My blood pressure was up. I was taking sleeping pills, Valium and anti-anxiety medication. I was a wreck.’

Child protection discussions that Fiona remembers as a 15-year-old were focused on stranger danger. She didn’t disclose the abuse to her parents or other adults, because she wasn’t sure how abuse was defined. In later years, she moved interstate and didn’t think the police would be interested. She also didn’t know if she’d be believed. ‘I thought, “How can I prove it?” I didn’t know if I could.’

Fiona thinks if posters in private areas like change rooms had described what was and wasn’t appropriate behaviour it might have helped her better understand David’s grooming behaviour. She said prominent photos outlining staff members’ names, titles and roles might also have alerted her to something being wrong.

Fiona couldn’t understand how David was able to take two girls into a secluded room without it attracting the attention of other adults. ‘There should have been someone asking, “Why is David disappearing upstairs at 4 o’clock in the afternoon with two girls?” There should have been somebody thinking about that.’

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