Anger poured out of Gia as she told the Royal Commission that the man who ‘set me up’ for sexually abusive relationships in her teens would not be prosecuted.
At home in the 1980s Gia would rather talk football than babies and weddings. More ‘outdoorsy’ than her siblings, she was a poor student and often sneaked out to spend time with neighbours ‘just to be in a different environment’.
Gia grew up in a community that discouraged interaction with the opposite sex, especially those outside the faith. In her mid-teens, she had no friends and was at a vulnerable point in her life.
When Max Pointer, a school contractor, saw Gia siting alone, he encouraged her with his friendly smiles and ready ear. Had she told her mother about speaking to him, ‘I would have gotten hit and sent to my room.
‘Talking to a boy was just as naughty as having sex with a 45-year-old – that was my understanding’, Gia said, and ‘being in a relationship with anyone if you are not married is bad’.
She poured out her adolescent fears to Pointer, who took advantage of her isolation and complete lack of sex education. He responded with cuddles and kissing and fondling, progressing to digital penetration, and continued this behaviour for more than a year. They met at the beach and went for drives at night. Gia felt she was in a relationship.
Her parents somehow found out about Pointer and warned the school community, but nothing was done. ‘So they paid no attention to what [my father] said which is not great – pretty much put me at more risk, put me at further risk.’
Gia described the school’s response as ‘total negligence. And it's their duty of care to make sure I was in a safe situation and not – with someone they had been warned about. And they would have seen him taking me off for … trips at night and stuff like that. [A school friend] remembers that very vividly. There’s a couple of other people as well’.
Gia went away on a school camp, during which she met Pointer frequently – ‘that’s when things started intensifying a lot more … that’s when we were making arrangements to run away. And [a trusted teacher] talked me into making other plans and waiting till I was 16.
‘I know I was 15 but I was really – I had like an 11-year-old cognition and I was also very emotionally young then. I really was emotionally young.’
Instead of running away with Pointer, Gia took herself to the country and soon believed herself ‘in love’ with Andrew Fillmore, her employer.
‘That's what Max set up, that knowledge that, you know, your body, if someone wants your body that means they really care for you. So I was very naive.’
When Fillmore was arrested on sex charges relating to other girls, Gia – who was not a complainant – found herself at the local police station.
Her parents were called and her father came to collect her. And while the circumstances were dire, he hugged Gia – the first time he ‘ever touched me fondly’, she recalled.
Afterwards, though, Gia was packed off to stay with a foster family. ‘And my foster dad basically did the same thing [sexually abused her] for 18 months.’
In the 2010s the police arrived at Gia’s home, after allegations of sexual abuse were made against a family member. Denying the accusation, she instead disclosed Pointer’s abuse three decades earlier. Eventually charges were laid against him.
Gia is disappointed that she couldn’t amend her initial statement when she later recalled extra information. She’s also incensed that a reclassification of offences meant that ‘forced oral sex’ was not classed as ‘rape’ in the 1980s, so was not in the same category of crime.
‘It's only been in the last six years or so that I have been able to string a coherent sentence together’, she told the Commissioner about the impact on her life.
‘I have been in and out of hospitals. I have had suicide attempts. I have been medicated up to my eyeballs. I have been in rehab facilities. I have had terrible eating disorders. I still have flashbacks, you know, and it's – it's also all the other abuses that happened after that.’
It was only shortly before her private session that Gia learned Pointer would not be prosecuted after he was found to be medically unfit to plead. He had also demanded the removal of his name from media sites.
Due to family circumstances, Gia – who remains ‘really angry’ – is unable to tell her story publically. She is sceptical about the extent of Pointer’s injuries but appreciates she can’t speak to the media without being named.
‘I just feel played with again, he's done it again and that's the kind of man he is. He is arrogant, he's stupid. He thinks he can get away with anything and he has and he did back then as well. He used to flaunt it, used to send messages by my brother to me at home to say “hello” to me.
‘That's what really gets at me, that this weaselly piece of shit started this ball rolling. I mean, I was a troubled kid. I was trying to find my way. I was bumbling in the dark. I didn't know where to turn, yes, that is true, but he took advantage of that … I have to go through this over and over again and he gets away scot-free. He has gotten away with it and he's a smug little shit and he knows it.’
Nonetheless, Gia was grateful for the opportunity to come to the Commission, particularly as it was the first time – ever – she could speak freely with ‘no concerns about what I say’.