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Marian's story

‘It was all about, well I don’t know what it was all about, but it was all about freeing yourself … Your natural instincts tell you, even though you’re being told one thing, your natural instincts tell you immediately that this is not as it should be, so I remember resisting for I don’t know how many lessons but it may have been three or four, it may have been five or six, I don’t know, but the lessons were regular.’

In the early 1970s, Marian started drama classes at a private school in Western Australia run by Vince Dempsey. After a short time, she was invited to attend private lessons with Dempsey where he’d tell her to take her clothes off and do drama exercises naked. Sometimes another woman would be in the room while at other times it would just be Marian and Dempsey present. Alone, Dempsey coerced Marian into having sex, telling her it was part of the process of being ‘free’ but that she wasn’t to tell anybody else.

‘He’d repeat it continuously: “You must not speak about this to anybody else because they won’t understand. They won’t understand the love, they won’t understand us being one” … The sad thing is that there was a point where, you know, I really adored him.’

Marian told the Commissioner she got to a point where she ‘couldn’t continue’ and in the mid 1970s, told her mother about the abuse. Leading up to then, she’d tried without success to get out of private classes and only participate in group activities. Marian’s mother had noticed her having very long showers when she returned from class but when asked, Marian said it was because the floor of the hall was dirty.

Marian’s mother confronted Dempsey, whose response was disappointment that Marian had ‘let him down’. Not long afterwards, three police officers arrived at the home while Marian was alone and questioned her about Dempsey. She felt intimidated and didn’t make a full statement because she was worried about getting into trouble from her father about what had happened.

It transpired that two other girls had disclosed being abused by Dempsey, but Marian didn’t know whether the matter went to court and she heard nothing further from police. She heard from someone that Dempsey was no longer allowed to work with children.

Marian said she buried the abuse for years but it resurfaced when she read a glowing article about Dempsey in the newspaper. Her mother asked if she would now make a new statement to police, but she didn’t want to.

Marian first disclosed the full extent of the abuse about two years ago when she met a man who’d also been in the group and understood Dempsey’s power and appeal. She’d coped well over the years, she said, because even at the time of the abuse she’d known that it wasn’t her doing anything wrong.

‘I would like to see that this sort of thing is handled in a far [more] sensitive way than it was back [then], because he continued on even though he was banned from working with children for two years. We’ve since come into contact with another lady who went through the same thing but she was about 18. What we believe is that he just upped the ante – as long as they’re not underage. The whole grooming, the whole moulding, the whole mind manipulation, his MO was exactly the same … The system failed us miserably. He just continued on doing what he was doing. We knew that. We knew that you’re not this way this day and not the next …

‘I think in my case I was able to go forward and deal with it as I have, because the drama was just so good, it was great. Kept the positive. But then it did get to the point that I couldn’t continue.’

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