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Naomi Ruth's story

When Naomi was nine years old, in the 1960s, her parents sent her to private tuition. The tutor, Graham Newson, then in his mid-40s, worked in a room within the grounds of a Sydney hospital. He also claimed to be a psychologist, although he wasn’t employed by the hospital.

Naomi grew up in a strict, conservative and religious family, and was a quiet and well-behaved child. ‘I always got bullied at school. I never knew why.’ Newson groomed Naomi, using punishment and humiliation. If she made an error during her tuition, he would make her write out things like, ‘I must not be careless’, 100 times. He would cane her on the hands.

Every Friday, Naomi would go for ‘tuition’. Her grandparents waited outside and picked her up. They never asked any questions. On numerous occasions Naomi informed her mother about this physical abuse, but was always told she needed to go back.

Eventually, ‘I got caned on the bottom. I had to pull down my pants … His pants stuck out at the front and I didn’t know what that meant then. But I now realise that he was probably masturbating’.

The second time this happened was particularly humiliating for Naomi, as she was menstruating. She was 14 or 15 at the time. Again, Naomi told her mother. This time the tutoring sessions immediately stopped. But it was never discussed.

Naomi underwent some counselling in the 1990s and her counsellor ‘recognised some stuff’, so Naomi talked about the abuse. She has recently started counselling again.

Naomi developed eating problems and while addressing that issue, recognised that she was an alcoholic. Around that time her relationship broke down and she made some bad financial decisions. She started going to AA meetings and has now been sober for over 20 years.

‘Until this year I just thought it was all my fault … I was obviously stupid.’ However, after Naomi left school, she qualified as a health professional – something, as her counsellor pointed out, she could not have done if she were ‘stupid’.

At some point, Naomi made inquiries about Graham Newson and found that he was never a registered psychologist. He is now deceased.

Naomi feels the sexual abuse caused ‘huge’ impacts on her life. ‘Until this year, when I put in the submission [to the Commission] … shortly after that, I realised the way I felt was not my fault. Like, this inadequacy. And I realised I would have had kids. I never had kids because I thought I was a fucked individual. It was all my fault … I just thought … “Why would God bother putting breath in me?” And when I got sober I realised that wasn’t the case.’

She shared her written submission to the Royal Commission with members of her family including her father. Her mother has passed away.

Naomi recalled a response from one family member, which was, ‘“We see things differently”. I’m thinking “Fuck. You weren’t even there. How could you see it differently?”… I got a bit annoyed about it.’ Her father does ask about her counselling, but Naomi feels it’s ‘superficial’.

Naomi now lives on a disability pension and is receiving a limited number of free counselling sessions through Medicare and Victims Services. She is active in charity work. Some compensation money would be helpful, she thinks, but ‘not huge amounts, because money’s not going to fix it’.

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