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Ramona's story

Ramona was four years old when started attending a Catholic primary school in southern Sydney, in the late 1970s. Her class teacher, Rachel Truman, was very cruel, often locking her in a cupboard.

Ramona wasn’t allowed to sit with the other children and Truman encouraged the kids to ridicule her. Refused permission to go to the toilet, Ramona would wet her pants every day.

Truman would hit Ramona with a ruler, and used the ruler to penetrate her vagina. Ramona knew that what Truman was doing was not right, but she didn’t have the words to articulate what was happening to her.

As a result of the sexual assault, Ramona required medical treatment. ‘She ruined me down there, I couldn’t walk’. She told her mother and the doctor these injuries happened when she was playing in the schoolyard, but doesn’t know if they believed this story.

The nuns from the school would visit Ramona at home, giving her statues of Jesus and Mary. In hindsight, she believes they knew Truman was abusing her, and wonders if they gave her gifts in an attempt to keep her quiet.

The abuse ended after a few months when Ramona’s mother withdrew her from the school. The first person Ramona told about the abuse was a university lecturer when she was aged in her twenties. The lecturer encouraged her to report it to police, which she did.

‘And then they got back to me and said we can’t do anything because there’s no complaints, no-one’s done anything, no-one’s reported about her. And it’s like, well, I’m reporting. They didn’t care.’

The male officer she spoke to was rude about her disclosure, telling her that ‘these days people complain about anything’. His attitude so distressed her that she did not proceed with the matter, ‘I said, “I don’t want to talk to you, leave me alone”.’

She applied for victims of crime compensation, but was told they could not assist her. ‘It really wasn’t about the money, I just wanted to tell someone. The money’s not going to give me my life back.’

Ramona looked for any information that might confirm the abuse. In recent years she said she contacted the Catholic Church, but they weren’t helpful. Unfortunately, her medical records from the time were not kept, so she has no details of her injuries.

She was able to confirm Truman’s name by speaking with a staff member at the school, and found out she had recently retired. She said she would like Truman to acknowledge what she did to her and to disclose details of any other victims in case they needed help but weren’t unable to come forward by themselves.

Ramona told the Royal Commission that Truman ruined her life, and ‘honestly, I feel dead inside’. She ‘never had friends at school’, and ‘was always the outsider’. She has struggled with relationships and recognising how she feels about people.

‘I honestly can’t tell you if I actually feel that I love someone or I don’t. I don’t know, I don’t know at all’. Even with her current partner, who she thinks she loves, ‘I don’t know if they’re real feelings because I’m numb’.

Although she is close to her mother and sisters, she has never disclosed the sexual abuse to them. She does not think she could ever tell her mother, a devout Catholic, because of the distress it would cause her.

Ramona has a good relationship with her son, but recognises that the abuse affected her parenting. ‘The worst thing I think I’ve done to my son is [that] I didn’t treat him like a kid. I always treated him like an adult – I didn’t want him to be a kid to get abused like me’.

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