Kelly joined her local under-10s sports team in the 1990s, and with her mother’s encouragement spent a lot of time with the team’s coach outside of game time.
‘My mum was an alcoholic and when she had a boyfriend, she didn’t want me around. So she was happy for Mike to take me overnight during the week, weekends and holidays, and he’d rape me. He had his wife there in the same room, even in the same bed sometimes.’
When Kelly complained of being ‘very sore’ between her legs when going to the toilet, her mother took her to the doctor.
‘I had thrush and he said there was only one way a kid can get that, but Mum didn’t do anything. It kept coming back for months. I would sometimes bleed after being raped, but I didn’t tell my mum about that because I thought I’d get in trouble.’
Kelly said she didn’t report the abuse at the time, for fear of being blamed. Then one night a younger female relative of Kelly’s came to Mike’s ‘and he tried it on her but she told him she’d tell her dad if he did anything. Later that night, he came in where we were sleeping and she saw’.
The next day the girl told her dad, who rang Kelly’s mum. ‘She screamed at me asking if it was true, and I was so scared I told her it wasn’t.’
After months of pleading and making up excuses to miss training sessions, Kelly said, her mother finally allowed her to leave the team. About a year later, a teacher intercepted a note, meant for a classmate, which mentioned the abuse.
‘I was sent up to the principal and she asked if it was true and I said “Yes”. She wasn’t very nice about it, I was made to feel like I was in trouble. No one asked if I was okay, I think they thought I was making it up.’
Kelly recalled the police and Department of Community Services becoming involved, then later attending the police station with her mother to make a statement.
‘Talking about the abuse, I couldn’t even say the words, “Yes, he was inside me” and that sort of stuff. It was very intimidating. It was hard to tell someone what I wasn’t ready to say. I had Mum, but she wasn’t really a mum. If she hadn’t been with me in the room I probably would have told police more, but I didn’t want to get in trouble when we got home.’
Kelly remembers attending a hospital for an internal examination sometime after making her police statement.
‘They just took me and told me I had to get undressed and they had to do a swab down there, and that was it, they didn’t prepare me for any of it. It was just as bad as what happened really.’
The next time she saw the police was on the day of Mike’s hearing in the 2000s.
‘The police didn’t prepare me for what would be questioned in the courtroom. I was 12 and didn’t know what the other solicitor was going to say and that we’d see Mike there, that sort of stuff. I wish someone had taken the time to sit down and explain the process.’
Mike was found not guilty, and Kelly believes he continued to coach young children.
Some years later she fell ill and was taken to the hospital emergency department where test results revealed the devastating cause of her ill health.
‘I’d been really sick on and off for years with constant diarrhea and infections, and that day I was told I was HIV positive.’
When Kelly was discharged a few weeks later, police visited her and she said an officer advised that others had come forward to report being sexually abused by Mike.
‘Straight off the bat he said there was nothing I could do because he’d already been found not guilty from me, and couldn’t be charged again ‘cause of double jeopardy law.’
Kelly lodged two claims for victims of crime compensation, 10 years apart – one before her diagnosis, and one after, but both were rejected due to ‘lack of proof’ of the abuse.
‘It’s been a frustrating process at times and a support person or advocate would have been helpful because I didn’t really have anyone there for me.’