Luisa Stone’s mother caught her husband abusing Luisa when the child was just six years old. Luisa’s sister was a newborn at that time. ‘My mum turned to the Catholic Church', Luisa told the Commissioner. ‘They told her to give my sister up for adoption - that was her best chance. My mum had no support.’
That advice wasn’t taken. Luisa’s mother left her husband immediately and raised her daughters alone. Times were tough for a single mother in 1970s Queensland, but she did her best to protect her children. When Luisa entered 5th Class at her primary school her mother asked to speak privately with her new teacher, Alan Truscott. Mr Truscott was Luisa’s first male teacher. Mrs Stone confided Luisa’s abuse earlier in her life, and warned the teacher that Luisa might have trust issues and be difficult in class.
Mrs Stone did not know that her daughter had been placed in the care of a paedophile, a man who had abused girls in his care before and would do so again. Truscott targeted Luisa. ‘The first instance he took me down to the photocopier room. … The other two occasions we were at his desk. There were no other children around.’
Truscott’s behaviour was well-known among the students. ‘The girls in Year 6 and 7 would talk to us and give us advice, “Don’t stand too close to his table and stand over this side of his desk”. Unfortunately that advice came too late for me.’
Luisa vividly recalls another student, Neil, standing up to Truscott. ‘The teacher picked him up and literally threw him out of the classroom. Neil was on the threshold and turned around and yelled it out, “I know what you do to the girls!” Neil looked directly at me and I was horrified that he was going to say something.’
As a child Luisa kept the abuse to herself. ‘I thought I was doing something wrong.’ One night, in the darkness of her bedroom, Luisa told her young aunt about the abuse. She did not tell her mother, but Mrs Stone recognised the signs. She and at least one other mother went to see the school principal.
‘He threatened her with the union, and she turned around and said, “Well I’m going to get child safety involved”. He said, “Don’t do that”, and that’s where it was left.’ Alan Truscott remained at the school. Luisa has talked to her mother about these exchanges and asked why she didn’t go to the police. ‘I think it was because the principal had intimidated her and she felt as though she didn’t have that support. Or she didn’t have the strength.’
Luisa believes the abuse affected her. ‘I can remember just being difficult and it stayed with me for a very long time … Through my high school years I was wagging school, smoking. Wasn’t interested in education at all. And any authority figure, I didn’t want to listen to.’ As she grew older Luisa began to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Relationships with men failed.
She reached a turning point, however, when children came along. ‘With the birth of my second daughter, I was 25 years old and I realised I couldn’t be living on the edge, with drug abuse, alcohol, everything. It was just to blank everything out.’ Luisa had three children. ‘That’s when I realised I wanted a future for them. I had to get my shit together.’
Luisa went on to build a successful career in management in the public sector. Her children have grown into healthy adults. They’ve left home, which Luisa found hard. She is happier now her mother is moving in. ‘I know that’s ridiculous, but again I have that drive, that focus, looking after someone.’
Having shared her story Luisa would like to put her abuse behind her forever. ‘It’s so easy to be consumed by everything and blame everyone else. At the end of the day we have a choice. You either choose for it to consume you or you choose to have a better life. My children were my driving point and my focus. I wanted to give them a better life than what I had.’
She believes schools need specialists on staff trained to recognise the signs of abuse in children. She knows kids are frightened and often not strong enough to speak up for themselves.
Luisa has heard rumours Alan Truscott was prosecuted years later and spent a few months in jail. She believes he deserves harsher punishment for all he did. And she is equally scathing of her old principal, now deceased. ‘He was responsible for every child at that school and he turned his back on women who approached him. He just fobbed it off as if it was nothing. How dare he do that?’