‘I’ve looked at the whole situation of my life … a mother that was very controlling and unsupportive. So I had to be very compliant as a child in order to fit in, in a large family where there just wasn’t enough love … I wasn’t a child that was given love [or] a mother or father that would listen to me, so I … ticked all the boxes for an abuser, because I didn’t come from a loving home.’
In the early 1980s, when Glynis was about nine years old, her teacher at her primary school in the outer suburbs of Sydney went on leave, and the class had a number of relief teachers. One of these teachers sexually abused her.
‘I can certainly describe to you how he looked … He was a very vain man … He really thought he was the bee’s knees.’ Looking back, Glynis now believes that the teacher groomed her. ‘I remember him actually weakening me … sending me out of the classroom for things I wasn’t doing, so that I’m … made more vulnerable … and then I also remember him at one point offering me an ice-cream.’
Glynis recalled, ‘I don’t know if most victims are like this, but I remember so much about, not so much the acts, but everything else about him … I could draw for you the classroom … down in the back right-hand corner of the room, there was a small room like a store room and I absolutely remember him taking me in there and … the lights went out and … that’s where the event took place’.
This ‘first event … was a violent event’. The teacher had to give her a new pair of sports bloomers to wear, ‘because something must have happened to the pair I was wearing. So when I feel into this act … it’s white and it’s hot … I know there’s violence with it. So I can only assume there was forced penetration with that … It’s just that by that time I had to leave my body completely. I had to get out of there. It was so unsafe’.
Glynis had previously been abused by her much older brothers at home.
‘I was already vulnerable … I just think the act at school was highly violent and terrifying … So, similar crimes of a sexual nature. The crimes in the home in a way were more difficult to heal because you had a relationship with those people, but in terms of tearing me apart, the crime in the institution was … the nail in the coffin. I was gone after that. I was gone.’
After the sexual abuse she experienced at home and school, Glynis’s schooling suffered. She had been a good student, but when she went to high school, ‘I was put in the lowest grade and the shame I had about that. I was just gone through all of my schooling. There was no one home. I could not concentrate and then I was shamed more because I couldn’t do my work. So then I got these really low grades that compounded my ineptness’.
As a child, Glynis blamed herself for the abuse. ‘I felt, what had I done wrong? I was overcome by guilt and shame, thinking I’d been a bad girl and … this is my reckoning, you know.’
Glynis told the Commissioner, ‘What ultimately saved me was that my mother was very moralistic … and having that moralistic background has actually given me a kind of discipline … so I didn’t veer off into drugs and alcohol’.
The sexual abuse she experienced has had a huge impact on Glynis’s adult life. ‘I really don’t have a friend to call on. This has cost me my life. I don’t have connections … I’ve had relationships with men, but nothing that’s worked out. I don’t have friendships. I haven’t had support. The lack of support in my life has been phenomenal.’
After contacting Relationships Australia, Glynis has been seeing a counsellor and has found the weekly contact helpful. Glynis has also been diagnosed with a number of medical complaints that are triggered by trauma and stress, so ‘it’s a journey trying to get well’.
Glynis has taken ‘many unconventional steps’ towards self-healing and has avoided taking prescribed drugs. ‘It’s been a very long journey and I’ve taken enormous steps myself to try and rectify my life and heal myself. I’ve been an extremely fractured person through trauma and I saw … the ad [for the Royal Commission] … so I responded to it … Two or three years ago, I wouldn’t have had the capacity to respond to it.’
For Glynis, coming to the Royal Commission has meant that ‘I have pursued this to now the highest space. This is the highest space of authority and acknowledgement for me. I wasn’t going to let myself down. I have not let myself down, but the crimes that occurred on me meant that I couldn’t act on my behalf, and now that I can begin to act on my behalf, why on earth would I let this go …
‘As I was reflecting coming in today, I was reflecting on all the non-supporters I’ve had along the way … I just thought about all the non-support and I thought, “You know what, I resolutely have to support myself” and this is what it’s about.’