Melita loved being a scout. Her dad had been a scout, and her brothers too. She achieved highly, attaining every badge she could.
By the time she was 14 she was getting ready to become a venturer. It was the early 2000s, and Melita attended a big gathering with scouts from all over the country. There weren’t any adults she knew on this trip, and only a couple of scouts she knew from other groups. An older boy, Marcus Allan, befriended Melita while they travelled.
The attendees were housed in dormitories, without direct supervision from their adult chaperones or leaders. ‘We didn’t have an adult there, we weren’t separated into boys and girls ... You were meant to be young adults.’
On the second day, she was hanging out with Allan and some other friends after dinner. Eventually she ended up alone with him in the recreation room. They talked for a while, ‘just being teenage, doing dumb stuff, throwing things at each other, watching TV’.
Allan wanted to show Melita something in his room, so she accompanied him there. When she wanted to leave, ‘he had his hand on the door’. He dragged her across the floor by her hair, and raped her.
Afterwards, she walked back to her dormitory – ‘all my clothes were ripped ... I saw people looking at me’. She was crying, cut up and bruised, but couldn’t tell anybody why.
An older girl, Naomi, became aware that something had happened, and came to speak with Melita. ‘And I told her that he’d hurt me and stuff, but didn’t go into any details ... Just that he’d forced me to do things.’ Naomi asked if Melita had been raped, but she denied it – ‘I didn’t want to talk about it at all’.
The next day Allan taunted her so viciously that other people had to intervene. At some point, Naomi ‘said to someone that something had clearly happened’.
A female leader pulled Melita aside after dinner. She and Naomi were taken to a room, where a number of male leaders questioned Melita about what had happened. She told them Allan ‘touched me’, and ‘made me do things to him, and had put his hands inside me’.
This meeting lasted over two hours – ‘It felt like an interrogation’. The contingent leader asked most of the questions, and told her ‘if you want to make a complaint to police, this is how it’s going to work. No one’s going to believe you’.
The conversation focussed on the repercussions of her reporting, rather than what the leaders could do to help her. He said ‘if this is what’s happened, I have to tell your parents ... and they’re probably going to want to you go home’.
Melita already had family problems, including a violent father and having been sexually abused by a relative. She ‘thought I was going to be in so much trouble’ if she had to leave the trip early, after her parents had spent money getting her there, so didn’t want them to know. In hindsight, though, she thinks that her father ‘would have been on the next plane’ if he’d been told what had happened.
The leaders told her that other complaints had been made about Allan. She found out later that while this discussion was happening, Allan was sexually assaulting another girl, Hannah.
Allan was removed from the trip. The leaders pulled everyone into a room to tell them someone had been sent home, but nobody was to speak about it – ‘the whole time people were just staring at me’.
Both Melita and Hannah decided they wanted to report the abuse to police, but various adults tried to talk them out of it, and it did not happen at this time.
Nor did the leaders report the matter to police themselves, or notify Melita’s parents. Even though she didn’t want her parents to know then, she believes they should have told her family regardless of her wishes.
‘They were trusted with looking after me, because I was a minor. And even if I was so dead set that I didn’t want my parents to find out ... The reason why we have these laws and these rules, is because children don’t make the best choices in those situations.’
When she returned home, she told a friend what had happened, but still did not inform her parents. Melita became pregnant as a result of the rape, and had a miscarriage. The assault also caused other significant gynaecological problems.
Melita remained active within scouts for a little while, but ‘it was terribly embarrassing’. The incident with Allan was common knowledge, and the others would ‘joke’ about her: ‘Oh, we can’t have Melita in that tent ... We can’t have any more allegations’.
She started using drugs, self-harmed, attempted suicide, and experienced anxiety and depression. Missing her friends in the scouting community, she attempted to go back, but did not feel welcome.
Melita made a police report the following year, but has not yet pursued it further. The police notified her parents of the report, because of her age, also telling them about her lost pregnancy.
Her parents made a complaint to the scouts, but she does not know the outcome. Melita has also tried taking this matter to the organisation, and is seeking advice about her legal options. ‘They should have to look at themselves, because there’s still children in their care.’
Melita does not feel there is a culture of child sexual abuse in the scouts, but is very disappointed in the way they responded to the abuse against her and Hannah. She questions how the leaders dealt with her allegations, knowing how she would feel herself if a child in her care was harmed.
‘Where’s the humanity? If something happened, I would not only feel so responsible, so guilty, there is nothing I would not do to make sure that whoever had done this was held responsible one way or another.’