‘You’re special because these older people are taking interest in you. You’re exposed to things that are adult, and you seem to be mature and one of them.’
Madelyn has always loved martial arts and competed for her first club from the age of seven, winning several competitions. In the mid-1980s, when she was in her early teens, she moved to another club to further her training.
At the new club Madelyn was trained by Peter Shepard. Shepard was in his senior years and a very talented martial arts practitioner and trainer, ‘very respected’ at the club and also recognised nationally. He treated Madelyn like an adult, which was a ‘great feeling’, and she was very excited to train with him.
Madelyn trained twice a week for two hours at a time, and her parents found it hard to constantly pick up and drop her off. One evening after practice, Madelyn was told that Shepard lived down the road from her and had offered to drop her home. From then on this became a regular arrangement.
‘When he dropped me back home in the evenings he would say, “Give me a kiss”. I’d say no and he’d make a joke of it and say, “Just here”. He did this every single time he dropped me off. I didn’t ever kiss him.’
On one occasion, Madelyn was invited back to Shepard’s home. He offered to help her with her back problems after she had complained about them during practice.
‘I had problems with my back at one point and he [had] an area of expertise in that regard. At his house he had massage machines, so he invited me to use those to help with my back. He said that he could manipulate or massage my backside and that it would improve things. On one occasion he got me to bend over a table and was pushing on my back but at the same time pushing against me with his groin. I didn’t put it together at the time.’
Shepard treated this behaviour as a ‘routine’ so Madelyn felt it was completely ‘business as usual’ and nothing out of the ordinary.
After Shepard had finished his ‘massaging’ he made Madelyn practise movements that were for advanced students. One of these moves included a ‘hold down’ where she was placed between Shepard’s legs while he held her up. He forcibly kissed her and she tried to push him away but he was ‘really strong’.
A short while later, Madelyn told her mother about the kissing incident. She found it ‘disappointing’ that her mother suggested that she was the one who had instigated Shepard’s advances, as she had really wanted her support.
After this Madelyn avoided Shepard as much as she could. This was difficult however as he was her martial arts trainer. He no longer gave her lifts to and from practice and she never accepted invitations to his house again. However, when she was 15, Shepard called her into his office to listen to a tape. He said it was ‘for training’ but was, in fact, sexually inappropriate. He also asked her to come and sit on his knee ‘to hear it better’. She walked away.
Madelyn quit the club when she was 17. Her workload at school was increasing rapidly and she just didn’t want to be around Shepard anymore. After leaving she never saw him again.
It was only much later in life that Madelyn realised what had happened was wrong. This realisation has made her overprotective of her own children, and this makes her feel ‘out of step’ from others around her. She has since reconciled with her mother after she apologised for not believing her disclosure.
Madelyn has never reported Shepard to police. She feels that coming to the Royal Commission and telling her story will help protect other children as well as her own.
‘I think one of the more powerful weapons is just having newspaper articles and the recommendations, and perhaps the condensation of stories and how these things arise … I think that is the biggest positive to come out of [the Royal Commission] is the publicity in the papers and the general public knows that it’s real.’