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Lyn Louise's story

In the 1960s in a small town in New South Wales, Lyn’s dad was often away on business and her mum had her hands full looking after the younger kids, so 11-year-old Lyn was often encouraged to get out of the house.

‘That was the way it was in those days’, Lyn said. ‘People trusted, and that trust, unfortunately in many cases, was misused. Abused.’

Lyn spent much of her time at a local sporting centre. There she met coach Jim Phillips, who went on to sexually abuse her many times over the next two years. The abuse only ended because Lyn and her family moved away. When they returned a few years later, Lyn avoided the sports centre. One day a friend told her that Phillips was asking after her and wanted her to give him a call.

‘And I sort of said to myself – being two years older – I sort of said to myself “Under no circumstances whatsoever”, and I never went near the place.’

Throughout her teenage years Lyn lived in terror that someone would discover what Phillips had done to her. She felt fear and shame and believed that if the truth came out, people would blame her.

Lyn pushed her memories of the abuse out of her mind for the next 40 years. One of the results was that she suffered many psychological and relationship problems without understanding why.

‘I battled. I’ve always battled with relationships. Any boy whoever got real close to me I pushed them away. If it looked like getting serious: bang, pushed them away totally. And I was nasty about it. In some cases I was cruel …

‘I was very demanding of myself at work. Very, very demanding. And I’d demand that of others. I was too hard … I strived for perfection in my work, and I had a lot of ambitions that weren’t fulfilled, mainly because I was too demanding.’

In the mid-2000s Lyn’s psychological troubles hit a peak. She took stress leave from work, spoke to a counsellor and was diagnosed with depression. Over the next four years she continued to have regular sessions with the counsellor ‘to the point where it finally got to the stage … where I was able to admit what the problem was’.

Lyn disclosed the abuse to a friend, to the counsellor and then to her parents. They were all very supportive. In the wake of the disclosure, Lyn felt a kind of ‘release’ but the experience was not a magic cure.

‘It started to bring some things into perspective but it didn’t help in a lot of other ways because it didn’t – you know, you know why you’re doing something but you can’t say “stop it” … I know now why I don’t trust people but that doesn’t mean that I can just turn around and trust anybody. And I don’t.’

Overall, however, Lyn feels she’s gained a lot from counselling and she now considers it essential for her ongoing wellbeing. Unfortunately, counselling isn’t cheap and Lyn is no longer in a strong financial position. She left her job after an unpleasant encounter with upper management. The encounter came after Lyn sent a letter to her immediate boss, telling him that she’d been unwell for some time.

‘And I asked for patience and I asked if I was getting a bit over the top or something like that, please help me by pulling me back, just sort of say “Hey listen, calm it down”. And, I didn’t put it in writing but I told him personally why I was like it, what had happened to me.

‘He agreed to do that and to some extent he did. Then his boss got involved with it, and she was very, very nasty about the whole thing, told me “Get over it. Go and get a pill”, and was going to discipline me. So I left.’

Now Lyn’s well-laid financial plans have fallen through.

‘I was on track to sort of be able to, once I retired, to travel and do what I wanted to do. A reasonable lifestyle. I’m no longer in that position. I had to dip into my superannuation … I’m now on a disability support pension. I did try working a bit but every time it just got too stressful.’

A few years ago Lyn reported Jim Phillips to police. They took her statement then phoned her up a few days later to inform her that Phillips was dead. Lyn felt ‘pissed off, because I wanted to face him in court … I wanted to show him that I was not afraid of him anymore’.

As for the community organisations who ran the sports centre, Lyn holds them partly responsible for what happened to her. She said that an apology from the organisations would be meaningless because ‘the people who were there at the time are no longer there’. What she would like to see is action.

‘I would like to know that their procedures to keep children safe are as strong as possible.’

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