Imogen was born into a large Catholic family in the late 1970s. She grew up in a small country town in Victoria and her family was close. She loved primary school but when it came time for high school several of her sisters warned her that one of the teachers, Mr Sanders, was ‘creepy’.
On at least 20 occasions, Sanders stood behind Imogen and pressed his erection into her back, something that made her ‘uncomfortable’. He did the same thing to other students and Imogen believes other teachers knew about this behaviour.
One of the other teachers, Mr Donald, gave her space in his classroom to complete work assigned by Sanders’. Another teacher, Mr Worthington, knew about Sanders’s behaviour but told Imogen he couldn’t do anything because he was new to the school and Sanders was his superior.
When Imogen was in her mid-teens, she’d ‘had enough’ of Sanders’ behaviour and ‘blew up’, yelling at him to ‘get away’. For this, she ‘got kicked out of class’.
At the end of Year 10, Imogen moved to another state where she continued her schooling.
The new school was ‘a culture shock’ with a ‘violent, sexist culture’. Imogen recalled male students rubbing themselves up against her in front of the teacher. Nothing was said or done to stop them. She was taunted for being a virgin and threatened by boys that they would ‘pop your cherry’.
One day Imogen was tied to the front of a vehicle. While others watched, one of the boys put his hands down her pants. She complained to the director of the college who asked her to write up a statement. The director then called all the boys into his office and, in Imogen’s presence, read the statement to them. They all denied any involvement and that was the end of any enquiry.
The director told Imogen, ‘None of this would have happened if you didn’t want it to happen’.
Imogen left the college in the late 1990s, and moved back to Victoria. She had difficulty finding work and remained shocked by the lack of support she received while she was in school.
‘I didn’t get the help I needed back then, and I don’t know whether I’ll ever hold down a job.’
Imogen described being ‘very alert’ with men. She’s found it hard to be in relationships and does not trust easily. She had a child in her 20s who she raised on her own. She says she tends to ‘freak out’ when a person stands too close to her, and that this has affected her relationship with her son. Sometimes she ‘pushes him away’ because she ‘couldn’t stand’ his affectionate behaviour.
In the late 2000s, Imogen reported her experiences at both schools to the police. She felt the police officer she spoke to minimised the events and was reluctant to help. When police contacted Mr Donald, he said he didn’t remember Imogen and denied seeing any sexualised behaviour by Sanders. She was told that the college in Queensland had no record of her statement or the meeting with the director and the boys.
Imogen has no plans to go back to police and has never taken civil action against either school. She hopes institutions might learn from her experiences and implement better systems for working with children. She believes adults in such positions should be better chosen, and wants to the time when children are disbelieved just because they are children to come to an end.