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Gillian Therese's story

In the 1960s Gillian finished her school certificate. She knew she hadn’t done well and felt depressed. Before she went off to a school party she found some pills in a cupboard at her aunt’s place.

‘I didn’t know what they were but I thought if I take a few of those pills it might give me some confidence.’ They were sleeping tablets and Gillian passed out soon after she arrived at the party.

She was taken home and was asleep until midday the next day. Her mother interrogated her about drugs. Gillian, who just wanted a hug and some sympathy, became hysterical. ‘I ran around the house screaming.’

She was taken to a psychiatric centre, assessed by Dr Symonds and kept there.

When Symonds went on leave for three weeks, it was Dr Carlton that Gillian consulted about her constipation.

‘He asked me to remove my top and my bra ... he felt me around my breasts.’ She didn’t know why. ‘But I just thought, he’s a doctor. You’ve got to listen to what the doctor says.’

She was instructed to remove her underpants and lie on her stomach. He put gloves on but didn’t tell her what he was about to do.

‘He rammed what seemed like quite a lot of fingers up my backside and he said “This is going to help you with your constipation”. And I screamed because it hurt and he just kept doing it and … he was almost lying on top of me ... and doing it quicker and quicker ... he was breathing funny. I didn’t understand what was going on but I was terrified.’

Gillian realised later that he was probably ejaculating. ‘When he finally finished, he threw the gloves in the bin, told me to put my pants on and he said you’ll be fine now … He didn’t look at me. He was just back at his desk. And he said “Go to the toilet, off you go”.’

She went to the toilet and started ripping hair out of her head.

‘I didn’t understand why he did that to me. I never told anyone about it … for a very long time, because I always felt ashamed of it.’

One day Dr Symonds told her therapy group that Gillian was ‘promiscuous and slovenly’. Gillian had bonded with two older male patients. ‘They were like father figures to me, because I never had a father.’

To cure this ‘promiscuity’ Dr Symonds put Gillian in a geriatric male ward with about 25 men. She was the only woman in there.

‘Most of them had alcohol brain damage … And half of them had their penises hanging out of their pyjamas. They were defecating on the floor, it was like a toilet.’ She was brought there every morning and went back to her dorm to sleep.

‘I was begging to be let out of there … She said that was my treatment. That was the treatment she felt would help me for being promiscuous.’

One man kept yelling ‘Hey you, come and suck my cock’. Gillian had never even seen a penis before. After three weeks Symonds asked how she felt. Gillian said she wished she could wake up and find that it was a bad dream.

‘She said “Oh that’s a very escapist attitude. You have to be in here longer”. So she just walked out and left me in there … Around the fifth week a woman was brought in and I was really happy to see a female.’

One day Gillian heard her begging.

‘“Please let me out of here. If you don’t let me out of here I’ll kill myself. I can’t be in here. Don’t put me in here.” And I think she even mentioned me. She said, “We shouldn’t be in here”. Anyway of course Symonds didn’t say anything. And it was not long after that … I was let out, just like that. And the lady didn’t come back and I was making enquiries - how come she didn’t come back? Where was she? … And I found out that she hung herself that evening and that’s probably why I was let out.’

Gillian had been in hospital for 12 months in total.

Then, to her delight, a boarding school was arranged. She’d go home on weekends and even have visitors. ‘I was absolutely over the moon. I was so excited. I thought, she’s doing this to make amends.’

But she was sent to a reform school, not a boarding school. She had been tricked.

‘And I was supposed to be there for two years.’

Gillian self-harmed in order to get out. ‘I had to be taken to hospital and then I actually told my story to somebody.’

She was taken back to the psych ward. Dr Symonds said, ‘Oh I didn’t realise this would affect you so badly’.

Gillian was sent home. Her relationship with her mother was in tatters. She told Gillian she didn’t know it was a reform school. The positive letters Gillian was forced to write had fooled her completely.

Gillian moved out, got a succession of jobs, and tried school again. But the damage had been done.

She developed a pattern of abusive relationships and turned to alcohol to overcome her fear of intimacy and lack of trust. She’s now on anti-depressants and will be all her life, she’s been told.

But despite all the odds Gillian now has a supportive marriage and a successful career.

It was no surprise when she recommended that 15-year-old girls not be placed in wards with 50-year-old men.

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