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Patricia Bernadette's story

Mr Walker was Patricia’s Year 5 teacher in the 1980s, at a suburban state primary school. ‘Even before starting in his class, I had heard from other school children that he had a reputation of “kissing” girls goodbye each day.’

Walker paid particular attention to Patricia. ‘In the class, I was one of the girls he insisted sit on his lap to receive a “good” sticker on our school work. His touching consisted of putting his hand on my thigh. He told me he trusted me more than the other children. He also asked me to mind his watch while he cleaned the fish tank in the class.’

During the times Patricia was sat on Walker’s lap ‘I thought he was trying to keep me there for longer than I felt comfortable ... not through force ... praising me, and it sort of made a big impression on me. I felt it was wrong, I remember even the feeling of the material of his slacks just felt a bit “erk”, it’s not right. And I was scared, and I felt I needed to comply, sort of go along with it’.

She remembers Walker telling her ‘I had grown into a beautiful girl, and I felt self-conscious and as though he must have been watching me, I felt that was quite creepy’, and he ‘complimented me on being a good girl. And I felt uncomfortable as I was being singled out for these compliments’. ‘He also would often just put his arm around my shoulders a lot.’

Patricia believes Walker may have targeted her because of her personality. ‘I was very quiet by nature and I believe he had narrowed me out as someone he could manipulate.’

When Patricia told her mother what Walker was doing, her mother immediately arranged a meeting with the school principal, Mr Arthur. Despite Patricia saying that Walker’s behaviour made her uncomfortable, and her mother’s request that she be transferred to another class, Arthur did not think Walker was doing anything wrong and refused to move her.

Walker was present at this meeting too and, as if to demonstrate how harmless he was, put his arm around Patricia in full view of the other adults. Patricia ‘felt really discouraged and invalidated. And the teacher and principal just acted as if this type of touching and sitting on the teacher’s lap was completely normal’. She remembers feeling ‘powerless and angry and indignant, and also disbelief. The teacher couldn’t just stop touching the girls’.

Patricia’s mother was disappointed with this response, and moved Patricia to another school – although her father thought that they were both making a ‘fuss over nothing’. ‘I felt relieved and also ashamed and kept the true reason for moving a secret from everyone else.’

Just before Patricia left the school Walker tried to get her alone but she managed to avoid this.

‘The most concerning incident was when he narrowed me out one day when the class was being noisy. He said I was the only quiet one and all the other children will have to stay back after school, and the end of the day school bell had just rung. He then asked me to come into the store room with him, which I refused to do. I believe he was planning on letting the other children go so he could be alone with me.

‘I had been taught, by my mother, to observe my own warning signs/feelings around people, so responded accordingly and stood up to him and refused to do as he directed.’

These experiences with Walker had long-term effects for Patricia. ‘It had a pretty big impact on me, in terms of I had nightmares probably for the next 10 years of being chased, someone chasing me.’

Later on when Patricia was in high school a boy claimed Walker had raped her. ‘Of course, I knew this was not true, but I wondered if Mr Walker was a known paedophile and perhaps he had this reputation, which the boy knew about.’

No report was made to police about Walker, and Patricia does not know if he is still alive. ‘It’s really difficult when even Mr Walker’s school principal refused to do anything. I feel I should have given this information to someone earlier, but never knew who would listen.’

Patricia has followed the work of the Royal Commission, though when hearing about it she sometimes ‘felt a bit wobbly’. ‘And just the thought of what might have happened to me – I have anxiety and things like that.’

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