Kimmy has good memories of her early childhood in Western Australia. She didn’t let her physical disability stop her from doing normal, active kid stuff. ‘Sometimes I’d break something, sometimes I didn’t.’
In Grade 4 or 5 she started going to a specialised day school where physical therapy was integrated with regular school work. Kimmy made some good friends but she also started suffering at the hands of a man who worked there - an orderly called Ray Neilson who helped with physical therapy in the pool.
His abuse started when she was 14. ‘His hands would wander … we’d tried to avoid him but we couldn’t.’ He’d also pinch her breasts as she was walking past.
Kimmy and her best mate, Jen, did their best to make sure they were never alone with him.
Neilson was in fact notorious among the girls. The staff didn’t know he was assaulting anyone, Kimmy said, but she didn’t trust anyone enough to tell them.
‘He was cunning. He was so cunning.’ He’d get behind Kimmy in the water and fondle her. He’d jump into the lift with her and Jen just as the doors were closing.
‘I was so scared … If I told anyone I thought they wouldn’t believe me, so I just shut up and it just got worse and worse and worse.’
When Kimmy had a suspected fracture, it was Neilson who volunteered to drive her to hospital. Her heart sank. ‘I thought, oh my God, and he got me in the car. And I was crying because I was in a lot of pain and he just kept fondling me and fondling me … I begged them to keep me in hospital because I didn’t want to go back in the car with him.’
Kimmy became a weekday boarder when the school moved to a new location. Neilson fondled her while she was asleep and then on one weekend when Kimmy got permission to go to the school to retrieve her homework, things got worse.
She was in the lift when she saw someone had pushed the button for the second floor. She thought that was odd because ‘no one’s here except for me … and then the doors opened and it was him’.
Ray Neilson pulled Kimmy out of the lift, took her into the boardroom and raped her. Neilson kept her quiet by saying he was a man of ‘high accreditation’ so no one would believe her story over his.
She left the school when she was 18 and went to live with her dad. She never ever wanted to go back. ‘I just never wanted to even remember anything.’
Kimmy continued her teenage years with a vengeance, smoking and going off the rails. ‘I suppose I went wild … I would just go to nightclubs. I would just party because it was the only way I could get rid of it.’
Kimmy eventually settled down and got married but after her daughter left home, the bad memories started crowding in. She suffers from depression and anxiety and she endures panic attacks when she sees sexual violence on TV.
Kimmy connects her chronic insomnia to her continual watchfulness when she was a boarder, when she was waiting in dread for Neilson to come wandering in every night. ‘That has carried right through my life … if anyone touches the door, I’m awake.’
‘He took away my innocence,’ Kimmy told the Commissioner.
Jen, Kimmy’s school friend and fellow sufferer, ended up reporting Neilson to police. A few days after they questioned him he committed suicide.
It was after Jen’s repeated urging that Kimmy contacted the Commission. This is the first time she’s told anyone what happened to her.
Despite her stress, Kimmy has done really well in her later life, completing a university degree, helping her daughter with her own problems and getting good support herself from her mother and partner.
Kimmy hopes that telling her story will clear her head and let her move forward. She recommended to the Commission that every institution have someone that children can talk to about any kind of abuse.
Someone who will tell people, ‘that their private parts are their private parts and always speak up because no one’s allowed to touch you there’.