‘I’d have liked my daughter to go to scouts because I loved everything that I learned there … I’m too scared to send her to something like that. I’m too scared about that holiday.’
Jodi’s parents split up when she was nine. The breakup was messy and involved a lot of emotional blackmail, but Jodi didn’t want to take sides because she loved both her parents.
Jodi belonged to a local girls’ activities club, which became particularly important to her because of the respite it offered from her difficult home life. As fun as the group was, though, Jodi wanted to be outdoors. She wanted to join the scouts instead.
‘I got along better with boys at the time. The girls weren’t into outdoor things and they were into beauty … I was a bit of a tomboy.’
In the late 1980s, when she was 13, Jodi joined her local scout group. When her mother moved to another area, Jodi had to transfer to a different troop. The scout leader there was Johnnie Ladner, a man in his 30s. Jodi got along well with Ladner and enjoyed the attention he gave her.
Her mother wasn’t keen on driving, which made it hard for Jodi to get to and from scouts. Ladner said that he could give her lifts, which she accepted. That’s when he began to sexually abuse her.
Ladner kissed Jodi every time he dropped her off and picked her up. She remembers going over to his house numerous times. He shared the place with his mother, who often let Jodi hug him and give him a beer.
‘I remember rolling around the lounge room floor kissing him and all that … I was quite into that because I liked him … Other instances were in his room. I can see everything still: it was filthy, porn everywhere.’ Ladner also forced her to masturbate him. This abuse continued for several weeks.
When the troop set off on a weekend camping trip all the other scouts caught the bus but Ladner insisted that Jodi ride in his car. He kept trying to force her to give him oral sex, but she resisted.
‘He said, “Well, at least let me get into your pants” and put his hands in my pants, trying to do things. I was pushing him away because I hadn’t done anything, I’d just kissed before and I didn’t want to do that. He just kept trying, the whole trip, just trying to push my head down and trying to touch me.’
After the camp had finished, Jodi was approached by a female scout leader, who said she had seen Ladner grabbing her bum and the way they interacted. She was concerned and told Jodi not to get lifts from Ladner, that she would drive her instead. ‘But why? He’s okay’, Jodi told her.
Jodi didn’t tell anyone what happened between her and Ladner. She believed that it was her fault and dropped out of scouts soon after, and never saw him again. Jodi was bullied at school, with people spreading rumours about her and Ladner.
From the age of 13, Jodi self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana. At 16, she disclosed the abuse to her father.
He wanted her to report Ladner to the police, but Jodi couldn’t bear it. She didn’t think anyone would believe her. Soon after, Jodi dropped out of school because she couldn’t concentrate.
Throughout her teens and adulthood, Jodi has had significant health problems. She’s found it hard to work full-time and has been told her health affects her productivity. She doesn’t trust others, especially those in authority.
Jodi has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She has intimacy issues and is overprotective of her daughter.
It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that Jodi disclosed the abuse as an adult, to a psychologist she’d started seeing. This was a turning point.
‘She’s the first person that told me it wasn’t my fault … That’s when I started to realise that I didn’t do bad things. Bad things happened to me and that I’m not a bad person. I thought I was a bad, horrible person for a long time.’