‘It’s not been a normal life. But I’ve got two good kids. I’ve got … good grandchildren … I’ve got my home. I’ve got my dog. I know I‘ve got a lot to be thankful for but you still keep thinking about why I am like I am.’
In the early 1960s, Linda was in Grade 5 at a government-run primary school in the northern suburbs of Sydney. She was frequently sexually abused by her teacher during class – ‘He would just come and put his hand into my shirt’ – and also in a storeroom.
‘He used to take me in there. There’d be a chair and he’d sit on the chair and then he’d put me on his lap … Every time he came in [to the classroom] my body would tense up.’
Linda didn’t tell anyone about the abuse but another girl in the class, who was also being abused, reported the teacher to the authorities.
‘All I remember is, the two policemen came and … they took my mother into a room and then when they left my mother was a bit angry with me … She said … “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” … Instead of giving me a bit of compassion she was angry at me – so that didn’t make me feel good at all …
‘I felt that from that day onwards things weren’t that good with my mother. She chose not to say anything to my dad so we had to keep it all secret.’
Linda hadn’t told anybody because she was worried about her father’s reaction. ‘He was very protective of us – especially the girls – and I was his baby.’ Linda also had reason to worry because the teacher had earlier sent home a letter, told her not to read it and just to give it to her parents.
‘I never found out what was in the letter but my father was so angry … it was quite bizarre the treatment that he gave me as a result of that. When I mentioned that to [my] psychologist she said, “They [child sexual abusers] are very cunning in what they do” … My dad punished me really badly for that.’
At the time, Linda made a statement to the police and the education department. The teacher was charged and committed to trial, but the case didn’t proceed. Linda is unsure why, and is trying to access her police records to see if they contain a reason.
‘To me, it just seemed to sort of – one day it was all happening and Mum and I were doing it, and the next day – Mum never said anything to me. [I] wasn’t told why it stopped.’
The teacher died not long after the case was withdrawn and Linda’s father never knew about the abuse. ‘My family never mentioned it. My mother never talked about it. It was as if it never happened so I just had to put it away.’
After high school Linda found employment and has never been without work. ‘I’ve always managed. I’ve always been productive. But I think it does impact on you in that you become a bit introverted.’
She’s felt insecure all her life, and has difficulty making friends and maintaining intimate relationships.
‘I think it’s pretty insidious, what it does to you as a person. I think it’s hard to pinpoint a lot of things. But to me, I think it was all about not having trust in a relationship. You know, I had trouble in my marriage, I had trouble with my long-term relationship because I never felt quite at ease.’
Her anxiety increased when the Royal Commission began and child sexual abuse was receiving media coverage.
‘It was really only when all this Commission stuff happened and then one day they were interviewing a lady on the steps … and one reporter said to her, “How does this make you feel now?” Her comment was, “Well, now my family will know why I am like I am”. And that sort of resonated with me because I’ve always felt different to my family and I’ve always been very anxious …
‘I’ve always had this anxiety … always running to doctors ‘cause I felt there was something wrong with me – even to this day … I always feel that there is something not right so I just need reassurance that everything’s okay.’
Linda’s anxiety has also seen her be hypervigilant with her grandchildren, which has caused a rift in the family. She has accessed free counselling but never pursued redress from the government.
Linda experiences distressing confusion because her memories are incomplete.
‘I’ve always remembered the fondling but I’ve never been able to remember what happened in the storeroom, even as a young girl. That’s always bothered me … My sort of burning desire is to find out what he did in there.’
She hopes the answers will be in the police records.