Josie Lee's story

‘He said, “It was the 70s”. That was his explanation of it. He said he didn’t feel married. He thinks the crime was more that he was married.’

Josie was born into a large family in the 1950s. Her early life was unhappy as her mother ‘did not want a daughter’ and would often call her a slut. Her brothers bullied her (with her mum’s approval), and her father would usually forget to pick her up after school.

When Josie was 15 years old she met teacher Mathew Zagreb at her government school. She ‘craved’ adult attention and Zagreb was the first person she felt noticed her. Soon she fell ‘in love’ with him and obeyed him when he ‘bossed’ her around.

‘I was completely flat-chested, I was not really interested in boys, hadn’t had a proper boyfriend or even kissed a boy. I was not one of the popular, pretty girls or anything. At first I thought he liked me, he had chosen me. He had groomed me for a while and then we kind of got into a relationship.’

The teacher would pick her up after school and also take her away on weekends. She was happy to get out of the house with him as she didn’t like being at home with her family.

Zagreb sexually abused Josie, forcing her to perform oral sex at least 20 times over the course of a year. He never had intercourse with her because he wanted her to remain ‘pure for him’ at a later stage when she could have consensual sex.

‘I didn’t scream, “No”, but he had to grab my hair and physically move my head. I was scared and because he was my teacher, I needed to get good marks.’

Sometimes Zagreb would buy a ticket for a football game before picking Josie up. Not having gone to the match he would then listen to the radio in the car to find out the final score before going home to his wife. Josie was ‘riddled with guilt’ about him being married – but because she was ‘in love’ with him she did what he asked of her.

Zagreb also had a dominant and sometimes forceful attitude which frightened her, and told her to ‘keep this as our little secret’. She felt the need to protect him and would often lie about the details of her relationship with him.

When a rumour was going around the school about them, Josie met with the school’s principal. She was told that the relationship could not continue and that one of them had to leave, so she decided to leave the school to protect Zagreb.

Josie took a year off from her education after this. During this time she became an alcoholic and was extremely unhappy. She attempted to overdose on prescription drugs because she still felt guilty for what happened. Her mother put her on the pill when she was 16 years old and this pushed her to become ‘promiscuous’.

Zagreb continued to contact Josie after she left high school, emailing and calling in an attempt to see her. Even when she was in relationships he continued this contact, saying that he ‘didn’t like’ that she wasn’t available to him. She felt pressured and married when she was 19 to escape Zagreb, but this marriage ended quickly.

Josie had work aspirations but feels her education was ruined and her potential stripped by the abuse. As a consequence she has never had a successful career and is ‘always broke’. Now she lives alone ‘like a hermit’ and prefers animals to people. She finds it difficult to maintain relationships and has been single for a number of years.

On one occasion several years after the abuse ceased, Josie decided to meet with Zagreb, expecting an apology from him for his behaviour. She also believed that he would have acknowledged her sacrifice in leaving the school for him.

‘He was still bossing me around like I was a child and telling me how to live my life. Which he did back then, and I was still waiting for the apology. Eventually I said, “Look this really affected me, what happened”. It was kind of a half-hearted apology and then he said, “You know, everyone’s got problems. I’ve got high cholesterol”.’


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