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Kayleen's story

At the age of 21 Kayleen made a complaint to the Church of Christ about the sexual abuse she experienced in the church as a teenager. This triggered a complicated legal process that went for over three years.

Kayleen is still stressed and highly anxious as a result of this process. She has nightmares and flashbacks due to the abuse itself. But seeking a satisfactory response from the Church made matters far worse. She told the Commissioner she has no social life as she can’t talk to anyone about it. Rather than being compassionate, the Church had no concern for her wellbeing during the ordeal.

In the early 2000s, when Kayleen was nine years old, her family became involved in the local Church of Christ. An active member of the Church, Bob Donaldson, used to visit the family home to discuss Church matters with her father. Donaldson would bring small gifts for Kayleen. However, she told her parents she didn’t like him around as he was ‘touchy’. Her parents told her that’s just how Mr Donaldson is.

Later, at the age of 14, Kayleen was teaching at the church and again had contact with Donaldson. He used to verbally deride her teaching methods. When she was 15 he sexually abused her on a number of occasions. This involved touching and fondling her breasts. Later when she was 18, he pressed himself forcibly against her.

She reported it to her father, who told her not to worry about it. Donaldson continued to yell at her. Kayleen left the local church and had no further contact with Donaldson. However, she was still active in a church elsewhere.

Because her father was a senior member of the Church, Kayleen made an anonymous complaint to the Church’s Ministry Professional Standards Committee (MPSC). Her issue was further complicated because some members of the MPSC were closely related to Donaldson.

After this complaint ‘went nowhere’ Kayleen pressed the issue further. What followed was a three-and-a-half year struggle with Church bureaucracy and the criminal justice system. Police investigated – a process Kayleen describes as a ‘nightmare’. They did believe her and, even thought there were other victims, ultimately decided there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges. Kayleen’s father spoke in support of Donaldson. This has led to a great deal of strain within their family.

In her dealings with the Church, Kayleen found that ‘they just kept getting nastier and nastier, basically’. After several hearings, investigations and appeals, the Church stood Donaldson down, disallowing him from working with children. Kayleen was pleased with this result but remains critical of the process behind it. She described it as disempowering, frustrating and unresponsive. If not for her persistence, she said, Donaldson would still be working with children today. However, there is nothing stopping him from moving interstate and becoming involved in the Church there.

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