Robyn Jane's story

‘I was obviously targeted by him. It wouldn’t have taken much to make me feel loved and you know I understand that whole thing now, but what I don’t think I’ve yet recovered from, or will ever recover from, is that I still somewhere believe that it was my fault, that I’m a slut, that I was just a bad girl, that it must have been my fault. I don’t know when I will be able to turn that one around. I still feel responsible.’

As a child, Robyn was a talented artist and regularly performed for the public. Along with other children she was often in the company of adults, sometimes travelling and staying overnight in motel rooms.

‘No one came and checked on us. No one looked after us. There were no chaperones … The culture was not one to be looking out for children. It was, “Kids are in their rooms now, let’s all party”. I would think it was much the same everywhere we went, no matter where we went.’

Jerry Edwards was one of the staff associated with performances and when Robyn was 14, he began sexually abusing her. At the time, Robyn saw them as having ‘a relationship’, and only later came to recognise the abusive nature of their contact.

‘It wasn’t sex, it was rape. Every time, it was rape’, she said.

Robyn had already experienced sexual abuse within her family, and felt this contributed to the later abuse.

‘Things were not great, so I was already well groomed for abuse. I know that now. I didn’t know, I knew nothing then, but I understand all of that now.’

Another man who was in charge of the performances was seen by many people as ‘weird’. A woman Robyn once bumped into later in life said she remembered that he ‘used to perve on us girls all the time’.

His behaviour and inappropriate comments towards children were factors that supported what Robyn described as ‘a boys’ club’, where no one asked questions or wondered why she spent so much time with Edwards. People everywhere seemed to turn a blind eye to questionable contact between adults and children.

In the early 1970s, Edwards’ behaviour came to the attention of police and he was charged with carnal knowledge. Robyn ‘was forced to make a statement’ and have ‘a virgin test’ at a local hospital. For this she was taken unaccompanied into a room and given a vaginal examination by a male doctor.

‘My mum had to sit outside. She wasn’t allowed, no one, not even a nurse. I consider that, like, digital rape.’

Edwards wrote Robyn a letter after he was charged, telling her she’d ‘betrayed him’ by making the police statement.

After this Robyn had difficulties at home and was rejected by her father. She’d begun wagging school and as she continued to be involved in performances over the next few years felt that knowledge of the abuse ‘got me a reputation’. She then experienced further sexual abuse by other staff members, and by one of her teachers at school.

The unhappy experience Robyn had with police, who ‘were the most awful women’ and had ‘laughed at’ her, continued later when she approached a legal firm about taking action in regard to the abuse by Edwards. She was told by the lawyer she spoke to that he ‘would restore my life’ but thereafter she ‘barely heard from him’ until he eventually informed her that he wouldn’t be representing her.

As an adult, Robyn had experienced significant mental health issues and at various times had been dependent on drugs. She had good friends, although she didn’t ‘understand why’ because she still feels ‘unlikeable’.

‘I know that I should stay away, out of relationships because I don’t function well in them. In fact I have more mental health issues when I’m in love. It stirs up too much stuff and I don’t cope in relationships. My blueprint is fucked basically. I get that now, and there’s got to be some compensation for that, even if it’s just to stand up and be validated publicly and for people to start to try and get their heads around that you cannot get over it. All you can do is learn to manage it better, which is what I do.’

Robyn said she wondered about ‘the potential of this person’ – who she was as a child.

‘And the older I get … I think, I could have done, I could have had such a happy life. I had gifts. You know, I was a really smart kid and it still, it hurts more now than it ever did I think, because I see the damage. And people think that it gets easier. It actually doesn’t get easier. It gets harder I think too because your life, you can’t get it back. I can’t get her back.’

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