‘He was a creepy man with a big smile on his face all the time. He taught gymnastics, so whenever we were doing gymnastics, he would always be touchy-touchy, feely-feely – inappropriately touching.
'Everyone seemed to know about it. All the kids said he was creepy, parents all seemed to know that there was something going on with him. You always heard comments that they knew he touched the girls up and stuff like that. I don’t know if anyone ever said anything. Certainly nothing was ever done.’
Starting when she was 11, Katie was sexually abused for two years by Mr Jordan, the principal and sports teacher at a government primary school in Sydney.
Apart from the inappropriate touching, Jordan also regularly called Katie out of the classroom to help him tidy the equipment room.
‘He’d put his hands down my pants, and rub my shoulders and my hair’, Katie said. ‘He’d go back to his office, and he’d say, “You’ve got to go in exactly five minutes or 10 minutes”. Then I could take myself back to class. I remember even being scared about that because if I didn’t have my watch on I’d get in trouble.’
Jordan also took Katie out of class and made her watch him cane boys who had misbehaved. He’d smile at her as he beat the boys, behaviour she later thought was another form of ensuring control over her.
The abuse stopped when Katie left primary school and moved into Year 7. She thought she might have been a target for Jordan because of sexual abuse perpetrated on her ‘as far back as I remember’, by a grandfather who was living in the family home. ‘I’d learnt how to dissociate but I was a target, I guess – I mean looking back now.’
At 11, Katie was a promising tennis player. She moved from her junior coach to train under Mr Archer, who was friendly, and popular with children and parents. Archer would pick up girls, drive them to and from training, and take them for treats after competitions and on excursions to the beach. ‘He groomed us over a long, long time’, Katie said.
In 1971, Archer approached the parents of both Katie and her friend Michelle, and offered extra training. He arranged for the girls to practise on the court near his home, then stay overnight at his house before taking them to competitions the next day. The first time the girls went with Archer, he left them in a room and told them to look at pornographic magazines. ‘He came back out and said, “How did you like that?”,’ Katie said. ‘And that was sort of the beginning of it.’
Over the next two years both Katie and Michelle were sexually abused by Archer. Another girl, Brigit, would sometimes stay at the house and she too was abused. Archer would brag about the numbers of girls who’d been there before. On several occasions, Katie was given something to drink and she’d ‘feel woozy’ or pass out.
One day when the girls were 13, Archer said Brigit wouldn’t be coming to stay at the house anymore. Katie thought Brigit might have resisted Archer or said something to him. A short time after, Katie noticed a new, young girl and her mother on the tennis court. Archer had recently started ‘being mean’ towards Katie and Michelle.
‘I could tell he was starting to groom them’, Katie said. ‘He was telling jokes, laughing with them and being really nice, and he sort of had us on the outer. And a couple of weeks after that, he said that he couldn’t coach us anymore. Just discarded us like that.’
Katie’s first disclosure of the abuse came in Year 10 to her guidance counsellor. ‘She just basically turned around and said to me, “Well, you’re lucky you turned out so good. You don’t need to worry about it now. It’s not happening now, it’s all over”. Went on to talk about going on to Year 11 and 12 and what subjects. And then and there I decided I wasn’t going back to school.’
After leaving Katie was in continuous employment, mainly in health services. For years she buried the abuse. ‘I kept it in a box wrapped in chains down a deep well in my mind, and it stayed there. When they’d be talking about abuse anywhere I’d just say, “It didn’t happen to me”.’
However, when her daughter turned two, memories came surging back: Katie was hospitalised, and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and dissociative identity disorder. She had seen a variety of therapists in group and individual sessions in the intervening years and had found them mostly helpful, though she thought it a misnomer to call the practice of dissociating a 'disorder'. ‘I think it’s a very creative way to deal with it.’
On two occasions she had talked to New South Wales Police about Archer’s abuse but she’d stopped short of making a formal statement, and she’d never spoken to them about Jordan.
Her husband was very supportive and they’d had tentative discussions about the abuse with their two children. Katie had sometimes spoken to other people about the abuse but found the conversations generally awkward.
‘People don’t know how to deal with it. They’ll either say, “It’s all over now”, or “Leave it behind”, or “You turned out all right”. One doctor even said that it happened to me because I must have been a pretty little girl. These are the reactions you’re getting still now.’
Katie told the Commissioner that she continued to manage memories of the abuse. ‘I had severe depression at one time and I couldn’t get out of that black hole’, she said. ‘But it’s draining. It’s exhausting. I still have nightmares, though not very often now.
'I can relax now. I enjoy my own company. I can enjoy just having time to myself. I was petrified to be by myself before. I take time to do the things that I like doing, like just relaxing and reading and doing stuff like that, whereas before I was just too busy – go, go, go.’