‘He gets to live his life normally and I’m still a prisoner in my own head, in my own home. If anybody was in a similar situation and asked me about reporting to the police I don’t know what I’d tell them.’
Kyra’s teacher at her tiny school in regional Victoria was Mr Vickers. He took her class for three years from Grade 3 to Grade 5. Kyra was seven years old when Mr Vickers began asking her to stay behind after the bell rang.
‘He told me that I needed help with work, that he would help me, and my brothers just went home.’
Kyra had to endure Vickers’ hands on her body. This progressed to digital penetration. She was forced to perform oral sex. Kyra was abused many times over the three years.
Because Vickers was also the headmaster, Kyra felt there was no one to turn to at school. Her family life was troubled, so she did not disclose to her mother or father. Vickers threatened her. ‘He told me not to tell, because nobody will listen anyway.’
The sexual abuse stopped only when Vickers left the school and was replaced by another teacher. Kyra pushed the trauma to the back of her mind and tried to get on with her life. It would be 30 years before she told anyone about what Vickers had done to her.
‘I think I just blocked it out when it happened, but as I got older it started to resurface and once it started it can’t stop … You can’t stop it. It just keeps coming.’
Kyra had trouble sleeping and battled feelings of guilt. She was sometimes irritable, sometimes angry, and had difficulty trusting people. ‘The impact has been lifelong. I have dissociative identity disorder. I have anxiety.’ Kyra has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is agoraphobic and finds leaving the house alone too challenging.
‘I can’t drive any further than where I live because I’m scared I’ll get out and I won’t be able to get home.’
Kyra sought help eventually because her family was suffering. ‘When I had my youngest son I was having flashbacks and everything was becoming too difficult for me to handle. I had to do something. I couldn’t cope.’
She told her husband about the abuse. Kyra also contacted one of the Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA). She has had counselling and psychological help, but describes the healing process as a slow one.
A few years ago Kyra became concerned that Vickers was still active in the community with access to young children. She contacted the police to make a statement. The CASA unit shared the same building, which made it easier to have counselling support while reporting the abuse and Kyra didn’t ‘feel like a criminal’. The police response was good – she felt listened to and believed and the investigation was prompt.
The result was disappointing, however. Vickers denied her allegations and, as there were no witnesses and no other complaints of abuse, the prosecutor decided not to take the case to trial.
‘I feel as though the system is designed to protect the reputation of perpetrators and not victims … He was more important than I was, since I was seven.’
‘Okay, he’s not going to go to jail. But there’s got to be some sort of checks and balances. Where’s the Working with Children Check? How is he allowed to have a Working with Children Check?
‘This is why I find it difficult. I live with all this, and what is the effect on the perpetrators that do this? What’s their punishment? As far as he’s concerned there isn’t one. It’s just, “Okay, I’ll get on with my life”. He’s had his kicks, he’s had his life. He’s been a community member and look what I’ve had to do … Where’s the justice in that? There isn’t any.’