‘I said, “I’m ringing up to get my start date”. And he goes, “Do you have big tits?” ... “Are you good looking?”...
‘I always think that’s when my world just kind of fractured in front of me, in that phone box. I did not know what to do. I didn’t see it coming.’
Freya was 17 when a friend told her about the job in a Western Australia government department. Her dad drove her to a phone box to ring the manager, Mr Caulfield, and waited for her in the car.
It was the late 1980s, and although Freya was mortified she didn’t tell her father what Caulfield had said. ‘I was too embarrassed to use the word “breasts”, and to talk about myself in any kind of a way like that with my Dad.’
Nor could Freya tell her mother. ‘I didn’t go to her about anything, even getting my period. I had no bond to talk to my Mum ... So I just took it all on myself, and fronted up to the job.’
Her family were excited she had found work, while ‘inside I’m dying, scared ... I didn’t know that’s not what jobs were supposed to be like, I didn’t know that was out of the ordinary. All I knew was that it made me feel very tiny’.
Freya was terrified on her first day. She was required to sign in and out of a log book, looked after by Mr Cimino. ‘He used to, no joke, four or five times a day, every time I’d have to sign off in front of him, go “How are your breasts today Freya?”’
Though there were a couple of other women in the office, ‘it was very much a boys’ club’. One of the women had been awarded a sexual harassment claim previously, and ‘no-one would mess with her’.
Freya was lonely in the job, with only her bosses to talk to. Other colleagues treated her like ‘fluff’, and she constantly felt demeaned.
There was a strong culture of drinking in the department, and beer was served in the canteen. ‘Everyone would just get maggot drunk, starting from lunchtime.’ This drinking continued at the pub after work.
Freya was not accustomed to alcohol, and one night was extremely drunk after work. She had just turned 18. As she didn’t have enough money to get a taxi, Caulfield offered to drive her home.
Instead, he took her to his house. ‘He gave me marijuana to smoke, and then he started undressing me in the kitchen, and kissing me. Then it just ended up having sex with him. It was just really horrible because I was really sick, just wanting to get this night finished and over with.’
Caulfield finally drove her home the next morning. A few days later, Caulfield threw a plastic bag at Freya’s head while she worked. The bag contained clothing she had left at his house. ‘He threw it in front of two men that worked in the office, like blatantly, just to show them. That was really horrible.’
After this, Caulfield ‘did take another shot with me again, with the alcohol again’. Freya told a friend who worked in HR at the department, and she was moved out of Caulfield’s area.
Mr Waterhouse was Freya’s manager in another team. One night she was drinking with some younger staff members, and they decided to drive to someone’s house to smoke pot.
When Freya got into the car to go there, ‘who else is in the car, boss Waterhouse, the manager ... I didn’t expect to see him, it was weird. It was very weird and out of place’. Waterhouse accompanied ‘us youngsters’ to the house, and then went to sleep in the master bedroom.
During the night, Freya got up to use the bathroom. Waterhouse grabbed her in the hallway, and dragged her onto the bed.
‘I kind of thought everyone was asleep, and I was really kind of embarrassed by what was going to be going on. And I didn’t do anything, I didn’t scream out, I did nothing. I tried to resist in some ways, in a half-drunken kind of a way. He had sex with me. By the next morning he was gone.’
Freya did not want anyone else to know what happened, in case they thought she was a ‘slut’. Soon afterwards she went part time, and resigned after a few years. She fled the city, and went to live in a remote community. ‘At that point I was losing my brain.’
As she had quit her job at the department, she could not get unemployment benefits, and lost her healthcare too. ‘I just took it on myself for years and years ... I felt completely ashamed. I never told any member in my family what had happened, why I had left, in fact I had to take their anger. You idiot, why have you done this, look at you.’
During this period, Freya became anorexic, battling this condition for the next 20 years. She believes she may have overcome her anorexia recently – ‘I don’t want to die now’.
She has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar. Art therapy has been very beneficial in her healing, and she is currently taking medication to manage her mental health.
Freya reported the sexual assaults by Caulfield and Waterhouse to the police, and both men admitted having sex with her. However, the police told her that as she was 18 ‘it was consensual’, and the men were not charged. The department refused to investigate the matter, saying the men no longer worked there.
After leaving the remote community, Freya married and had children. Her husband is very supportive, and although she still has struggles, he and the kids give her reason to keep going. ‘I’ve so much to be thankful for really.’