Megan’s mother was grateful when a school teacher dropped off Megan’s schoolwork and offered to watch the teenager while her mother ran errands. Throughout Year 9 Megan battled illness and spent long periods at home recovering.
In retrospect, Megan believes Ria’s gestures of kindness were all part of the relief teacher’s grooming strategy.
‘I liked Ria because she was easy-going. We shared the same faith and we’d often talk about our beliefs when she came around. I’d been raped and she was very understanding about that when I confided in her.’
One day in the 1980s when Megan was in her mid-teens, Ria began abusing her.
‘We were sitting on the couch and she touched my breasts, then tongue kissed me. I ended up rubbing her breasts. When she left I remember feeling a bit confused and asking myself if it was right.’
Around that time, Megan explained to the Commissioner, her mother was experiencing mental health issues, and she depended on Ria to fulfil a mothering role for Megan. Often Megan would spend weekends away with Ria and her young children.
‘During the day we’d take the kids to the beach and do usual holiday things. At night Ria and I shared a double bed, and she’d kiss me and touch me. She’d insert her fingers into me and encouraged me to do the same to her …
‘I would visit her after school and play with her kids. We’d usually have sex in her bedroom. She’d orally stimulate me until I reached orgasm and then tell me to do the same to her.’
At the start of Year 10, Megan started to question what she thought of as a ‘relationship’ with Ria, and ultimately decided to put an end to it.
‘I’d lost contact with a lot of friends my own age because I spent so much time with Ria, and she’d become possessive and jealous. I told her it wasn’t normal and we argued. As I went to leave she grabbed my arm and slammed it in the door.’
Megan walked directly to the student coordinator’s office and made a complaint.
‘It got back to the principal, who called me into his office. He questioned me on my own, he was very arrogant and rude, and it came across like it was my fault.
'My parents were called, I left the school for a while. When I went back, I was told Ria had been asked to leave and that she’d been told she wouldn’t be prevented from seeking employment at a different school if she left quietly.’
In the 2010s, Megan contacted police, who opened an investigation.
‘The police were very good. They questioned teaching staff who’d been there at the time, and many of them had said they were in the process of reporting the relationship.
'So they’d known what was going on, but nobody ever gave me any indication that my relationship with Ria was inappropriate.’
Megan told the Commissioner that some years ago Ria was charged in relation to the abuse, and was convicted, receiving a three-year suspended sentence.
‘My ability to forge relationships with women has been significantly affected. For a long time I loathed myself and used to self-harm, I slept around to prove I was normal and heterosexual – and Ria kept teaching for another 25 years right up until she was arrested.’