In the 1990s when Lacey was 13, her family moved to a regional town in Queensland. She and her siblings were enrolled in a Catholic school, not too far from their home. The school had day students and boarders and Lacey began there as a day student, becoming a boarder in Year 10.
Lacey said she was a quiet child who didn’t fit in at the school and she was bullied to the point where she was ostracised from her year group.
By the time she was 15, she had started hiding in the bathrooms during breaks to escape the school bullies, and sometimes went there during lessons. On one occasion, Lacey entered the cubicle and was about to lock the door when someone burst in.
‘He pushed me on the ground … I hit my head on the toilet seat and he forced himself [on me] … It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I blacked out.’
After the man left the bathroom, Lacey ran back to the boarding house. She couldn’t tell anyone what had happened – the words wouldn’t come out. She was told to go and clean herself up before she was punished for coming back to the boarding house late.
Several weeks later, Lacey felt she could no longer remain silent. She went to see the school’s counsellor and disclosed the abuse. But the counsellor didn’t believe her. From this point on Lacey’s behaviour started to change significantly.
She found it hard to concentrate at school and was overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts. She started having nightmares and intense flashbacks, and also often wet the bed. She couldn’t go to the toilet unless someone came with her. Lacey wanted to tell someone else about the assault but feared she would be disbelieved again.
Lacey’s teachers became concerned about her behaviour and sent her to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist prescribed several different medications, but without her mother’s permission. Lacey hoped that the medications would help her, but her mental health got worse.
‘Then I started questioning myself. Am I crazy? Or am I crazy because of all this medication?’
When she was 16, Lacey was taken to a psychiatric ward at the local hospital. She spent several days there as an involuntary patient. She was diagnosed and treated for anxiety. She found being in the hospital disorientating and confusing and was upset that no one from the school visited her.
After she was discharged from hospital, Lacey left the school and returned home. She then reported the abuse to the police and told them of her mental health diagnoses, but they made her feel like she was crazy. Nothing was done about her complaint.
Soon after, Lacey was admitted to a different hospital for further psychiatric treatment. She spent many months there before returning home. She found it hard to get off the couch and wasn’t able to return to school.
When she was 17, she enrolled in a different high school. She graduated with average marks and got into university, but couldn’t complete her course. After that she had several jobs, but has not been able to work for several years.
Lacey has maintained a good relationship with her psychiatrist and doctor. In the mid-2010s she told her family about the abuse. She is now under her mother’s care, which upsets her but she knows it’s for the best. Her partner has been very supportive and she also has a support worker whom she trusts.