In Tasmania in the mid-1960s, when Maryanne was around eight years old, her mother sent her to a holiday program at the local police and citizens youth club. She only recalls the name of one of the uniformed officers who staffed the club – Sergeant Bob Edgar.
After attending the program for a couple of days, Maryanne was sexually abused by Edgar in an office. ‘He was sitting down, I was standing up, and he put his hand over the top of my jeans onto my vagina and had a feel, felt me there ... As far as I can remember, it only happened the once.’
She was able to get away from him, and disclosed this incident to her mother when she got home. Her mother never wanted to discuss the matter and did not take any action, but ‘I didn’t go back there again’.
‘My mother is very negative about me talking about it, and she always has been. And she just says “Forget about it” ... And I can’t. So I don’t like my mother very much because of that. I don’t know whether my father ever knew.
‘In a way I can understand why she wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Because back then you didn’t muck around with the police ... If she had’ve said something they [police] would have called me a liar or something like that, and they would have targeted my family. So maybe that’s why she didn’t do anything, I don’t know. But it still hurts.’
Maryanne didn’t speak to any of the other kids at the club about Edgar. ‘I often wonder, if it happened to me, [there’s a] big chance it happened to other people.’ She believes that Edgar continued to work as a police officer for some time, and that he is now deceased.
Throughout her life Maryanne has experienced panic attacks and, after troubles at work, she had a nervous breakdown. She has been able to disclose the abuse to her partner, psychiatrist and her psychologist.
Two years before coming to the Royal Commission Maryanne contacted the police to report the abuse. As she had no direct number for her local police station, she called through to the general line where she spoke to a ‘young guy’. He listened to her story and asked, ‘What do you expect us to do about it?’
A couple of days later Maryanne received a call from a more senior officer, who then came to her house and took a statement. When she recounted what the officer on the phone had told her, he replied, ‘Well, he’s quite right’. While she understands that this may be the case, the way she was treated ‘gave me the impression that they didn’t give a damn’.
Maryanne has never sought any compensation or advice about her legal options. ‘I don’t necessarily want anything for it. But what I do want to know is, I want to know that somebody’s listening and this doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s what I want.’