Maxine Jane's story

When Maxine was little she moved around a lot with her single mother. She had already been to a few schools by the time she started in Year 2 at a large public school in suburban Melbourne. It was the late 1970s and the principal was Mr Harrington.

Maxine was a good student. One day she was sent to the principal's office on her own. 'We were sent there as a reward for our good behaviour and we would read to him', Maxine told the Commissioner.

During that first visit Harrington sexually abused Maxine. Maxine was sent back to his office many times that year and she was abused repeatedly.

Maxine blocked out the memory of that time for the next decade, though she does recall trying to disclose the abuse to her mother. 'I think I remember telling her and I think I remember her saying that it didn't happen and that it wasn't real.'

'I blocked the incidents out … and maybe because of my mum's disacknowledgement of it, maybe then it did affect me in different ways and 'specially my relationship with her and the trust I had with her afterwards.'

The abuse stopped when Maxine and her mother moved again. But Maxine became a more difficult student and less confident for the rest of her time at school.

'It's a bit strange for me because I blocked it out … I don't remember it having psychological effects on me but it probably did, and I just didn't realise it. And then when I remembered everything, I think I realised then why I had maybe chosen different paths, and maybe was a bit rebellious and a bit fearful of authority.'

Maxine recalled the abuse very suddenly in her late teens. 'I was in a playground and I was looking up at the clouds, I was just in a very relaxed state, and I had lots of memories flash back that I'd never thought about, or never remembered before.

'And they were very clear, vivid memories of the incident and what had happened at the time. I'd never before had thoughts of anything like that happening to me, and when I did remember it I was very shocked.'

Maxine's distrust of authority stayed with her through her life. She has had trouble trusting any adults, 'due to the fact that I really hadn't had protection from the people I thought should've'. Her relationship with her mother has been difficult and they have now been out of touch for years.

Maxine has had a child of her own. She believes she has been hypervigilant because of her own experiences. And Maxine recalls a day she had to visit her child's headmaster at his office in the school.

'I had to go and see him and I had almost like an anxiety attack. And I couldn't understand why and how I was feeling so agitated and angry at this person … because he was male and he reminded me of Mr Harrington. I couldn't go into his office, and when I did I was shaking and I went through a real traumatic time.'

'I realised that I was angry at him for what happened to me and that's why I had all those emotions and I was more upset than I needed to be.'

In her late 20s Maxine disclosed her abuse to a psychologist, just to have the experience acknowledged. She did not receive trauma-informed counselling at that time, however, and has still not looked for therapy.

When the Royal Commission began Maxine decided to tell her husband about the abuse. Maxine sees her contact with the Royal Commission as part of her healing process.

Maxine believes practices have already changed for the better in state schools but she wants more done.

'I'd like to see that children are listened to, especially at eight years old, because I don't think children really make things up at that age. They don't know what that is to make it up.'

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