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Leesa's story

‘What impacted me most was not being believed as a child ... Whatever comes out of this, there needs to be better systems in place so that children are believed, and are listened to.’

Leesa loved the independent school she attended in Melbourne. It catered for her artistic inclinations, and ‘their kind of education really suited me’. She’d been there for all of her primary years, and had just started at the high school campus in the mid-1990s.

She was 12 years old, and spent a lot of time with her home room teacher, William Kyle. He ran an extracurricular club taking kids camping, which Leesa joined. She went on two camps with Kyle; one was with the school itself, and the other with the club.

‘It was on these two camps where he forced a group of us to skinny dip on a couple of occasions. He never tried anything else on me, but I know that he did on some other boys that were on the camp.’ It was a mixed group, and the students ‘really felt like we had no option’ but to comply. She recalls seeing Kyle masturbating under the water.

‘Because we were in a group and we all talked about it, I didn’t feel that it traumatised me so much at the time. But I was aware of his reputation. We were all kids, and we talked about it. I was aware that there was something a lot more sinister going on.’

Leesa also remembers Kyle chatting to students around the campfire, and ‘he told the group of us he’d never had intercourse with anyone. Which I don’t think is appropriate to be telling a group of kids’.

Then, ‘there were two other incidents that happened back at school, in the classroom ... He invited me into his private office and he didn’t have a top on. And he asked me to rub Vaseline on his body. I was a pretty strong-willed child, and I just told him where to go straight away’.

There ‘were quite a few other little instances’, and ‘I complained about it to the school, on multiple occasions, to the principal, and nothing was done about it’. Leesa knows she was not the first to disclose sexual abuse there, and she’s certain that other teachers knew about Kyle’s inappropriate interactions with students.

Leesa and her parents attended a meeting with the principal, Mr Grainger. ‘I raised all of my concerns with the principal. Told him what had happened on the camp, told him about the instances in the classroom.

‘And he basically turned around and said to me, and to my parents, that we can leave the school ... So, that’s what we actually ended up doing.’

Her parents then decided to move from the area. This was hard and disappointing, as apart from the events with Kyle Leesa had been happy there. She didn’t feel comfortable at her new school, became depressed and started smoking cannabis.

When she got to university she moved in with her boyfriend, who smoked more heavily, and her cannabis consumption increased. She was in her late teens when she had a psychotic episode after a medical procedure, and had to be hospitalised.

During this stay she was heavily medicated and unable to defend herself when one of the other patients raped her. This happened twice. The first time nursing staff intervened, but the second time nobody came to her assistance. When she complained to the nurses about the sexual assault, they put the blame on her. She was never offered any counselling or acknowledgement by the hospital.

After her recovery, Leesa decided to go travelling with her boyfriend. ‘I’m fortunate that I did do all this travel, and I’ve healed myself in my own way. I never really had any professional counselling.’ She is now considering engaging with a sexual assault support service.

Leesa finds it difficult that her parents ‘don’t know how to deal with’ the abuse, and this has prevented her sharing personal issues with them since. For a long time she was furious at them and tried to get some resolution, but this didn’t happen. ‘I’ve just made the decision to forgive them and understand that’s their way of dealing with it. So we do have a very good relationship.’

She decided to speak with the Royal Commission after historical cases of sexual abuse at the school were reported by the media, and she has now provided a witness statement to police. She has not applied for compensation from either the school or the hospital, but has information about obtaining legal advice.

When Leesa finished travelling she completed her tertiary education and found employment. She is engaged to be married and hopes to start a family. Although she is mostly content with her life now, she recognises the ‘big dent’ the sexual abuse at the school and hospital left on her teenage years and into her 20s.

‘If I had that time again there are so many other things I would do ... In a way I feel like those crucial years are lost, so I’m not able to reach the potential that I could have reached.’

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