Isobel's story

Isobel grew up in a small northern Queensland town during the 1960s, and attended her local state school. When she was in Grade 6, the principal, Mr Paxton, started asking her to do small errands about once a week, which entailed fetching things and bringing them to his office.

The first time he asked her to wait at the door. Another student, who had ‘a really severe learning disability’, was already inside. Paxton had the boy ‘bent over the desk and he absolutely flogged the living daylights out of this kid while I was there – he started flogging him after he told me to stand outside the door’.

The boy was ‘howling’ in pain. Isobel now believes that Paxton let her watch this beating deliberately, to ‘soften her up not to protest’.

After this Paxton started sexually abusing Isobel, and ‘over a number of weeks it got worse and worse’. He would pull her close to his body, poking his fingers into her undeveloped breasts so hard that she felt bruised, and digging his hands into the sides and front of her body. ‘It was terrifying.’

Isobel would fight back but he was able to overpower her, and the abuse continued for around six months.

At some stage one of Isobel’s classmates, Betty, starting getting called to Paxton’s office too. Betty asked one day, ‘Isobel, is he doing that to you, too?’ Isobel said yes and Betty responded by saying that she was going to tell her mother about the abuse.

Isobel asked Betty if she could also get her mother to tell Paxton ‘to stop doing it to me too’. She thinks Betty’s mother must have intervened somehow, as the abuse stopped.

During the period Isobel was being abused, her academic performance declined and she got comments about being lazy on her school reports. She didn’t disclose the abuse to her own parents because they ‘don’t do emotional stuff very well at all’ and she never really had intimate conversations with them.

Paxton was at the school for many years, and Isobel knows of at least two other female students he abused. She believes he would now be deceased so hasn’t reported to police, but she wanted to share her experiences with the Royal Commission.

As an adult Isobel attended counselling for a few years, in relation to the sexual abuse and other issues.

‘The therapy has helped me get a deeper sense of myself. I’m in a good place, I’m fine, it’s just ...

‘When I first rang up [the Royal Commission] about this, I was really quite shocked that I would cry about it ... I don’t talk about it very often now ‘cause I’ve had so much therapy. I get on with my life. But obviously to speak here with you now is fraught, and I guess it always will be.’

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