‘When my first child was born my mother gave me a little Penguin book that said “No [More] Secrets For Me”, and she said to me, “If you ever think anything’s happening like that with your kids go straight to the police”. She said, “I wish I’d gone to the police”.’
Jean attended her local state high school in regional Melbourne. In the late 1960s Miss Granger, who was a new teacher at the school, began to cultivate a friendship with Jean, who was then in her mid-teens.
Granger was popular with the students as she was young and progressive compared with the rest of the staff. She would write letters to Jean, and offer her lifts to and from school, and also befriended Jean’s family.
When Granger came around for family dinners she’d end up staying the night, even though she didn’t live very far away, and Jean’s mother would put a spare mattress down in Jean’s bedroom. Despite this Granger would get into bed with Jean, saying things like ‘I'm going to teach you to kiss, let me teach you to kiss'.
With her parents’ knowledge, Jean would sometimes stay overnight at Granger’s home, too. The teacher talked about how a girl at her previous school was her ‘special friend’, and how Jean was becoming her ‘special friend’ now.
The ‘relationship’ between Jean and Granger became sexual. ‘It was never spoken about in terms of homosexuality or lesbianism or anything like that.’
Jean believes she may have been vulnerable as she was ‘a bit of an innocent and curious and interested, and I wanted knowledge and I wanted a bigger world, I wanted something bigger ... I felt displaced’.
Even so, she knows she is not to blame for what Granger did. ‘I can’t imagine myself initiating a conversation with a teacher. You know, you go back to see where you were responsible, or why.’
Jean did not feel able to talk to her parents about what was happening. Her mother seemed emotionally distant and unavailable (disclosing many years afterwards that she herself was a survivor of child sexual abuse). Her father often worked away, and she was afraid of him anyway.
Later Jean discovered that her mother had concerns about the teacher at the time. ‘At some point my mother went to the school – she didn’t tell me this until many, many years later ... She was an elderly woman by the time she told me that she’d gone to the school and spoken to the headmaster.’ The headmaster referred her mother to the education department’s psychologist but it doesn’t seem he did anything else about it.
Her mother had also confronted Granger directly, but the teacher was ‘very convincing’. ‘My mother said she had challenged her a number of times, and it was all denials.’ She’d contacted Granger’s own mother too, who denied ‘point blank that her daughter could ever do anything like that or ever be like that’.
After Jean completed school she entered the workforce, and her relationship with Granger continued. Eventually Granger began seeing a man and suggested to Jean that they needed time apart. Ultimately she was married and invited Jean to her wedding. She asked Jean to return her letters, and later said she burned them.
Jean went on to have children of her own. When her daughter was in her mid-teens – the age Jean had been when Granger began grooming her – she realised how wrong the teacher’s behaviour had been.
‘That was the first time I really acknowledged to myself that that experience had affected me deeply, and that it was abuse ... There wasn’t anything equal about it. And that it had mucked me around ... She’d held me in her sway for at least seven years. And that it had affected all my relationships.’
Jean was in her 40s at this time, and disclosed to her doctor who referred her for counselling. The counsellor minimised the abuse. ‘He just said, “Oh that was very common in the 60s and 70s”. End of story. Never mentioned again ... So all that did was suppress it for a bit longer.’
She has since disclosed to her partner and her children, and came to the Royal Commission as she believes it’s important for her story to be known. ‘I have to bear witness to the fact that it happened. I have to because I do believe that change comes out of knowledge, that growth comes out of the truth.’
The matter has never been reported to police. ‘I don’t want to go through a court case, I don’t want to haul my family through that [but] I would very much like her to say sorry.’
For many years Jean tried to ‘intellectualise’ and contextualise Granger’s actions. She recognises that despite it being the ‘sexual revolution’ at the time of the abuse, ‘homosexuality was still illegal then’ and so same-sex attraction needed to be hidden, and that Granger was scared of being found out.
‘I think for a long time I was forgiving her, because I can understand that. But then I thought no, you’ve got to focus on the abuse part of it because there were lots of people for whom homosexuality was an issue ... In those times I know it was harder, but that doesn’t forgive. It says something about her character that she had to express that through abusing people.’