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Ruthie's story

Ruthie’s coach Daryl Cooper started minding her at his house a couple of years after he began training her in the late 1990s. Her parents were busy people and they trusted that Cooper would look after her properly when she stayed overnight at his home in Adelaide. She was seven years old. For the next few years Daryl sexually abused Ruthie but she told no one. She felt as though she’d get in trouble.

Daryl bought Ruthie whatever she wanted. He told her how good she was in her sport and even chose her, along with three others, to compete nationally. However Ruthie knew she wasn’t good enough to be one of the top four competitors.

Just before her teens she told her mum she wanted to stop. Her mum, knowing how much Ruthie loved her sport, convinced her to keep going. The next year, when Cooper started up another business further away from their house, her mum relented.

But by then, Ruthie’s schooling had started to go downhill. She couldn’t concentrate and so abandoned her education at 17. She knows that she could have achieved much better marks at school and gone on to university.

The sexual abuse made Ruthie close in on herself. She eventually told her mother what happened but that too was painful. Her mum told her not to mention it ever again to anyone. ‘I needed help and I went to my mum, she didn’t help me so then I went to the police station one day.’

The police were very supportive. They told Ruthie that another girl had come forward with the same accusations against Cooper. Her coach was charged but it took years for the matter to be heard. The police wanted a joint trial for both girls but the two cases were tried separately. Ruthie’s trial was postponed repeatedly when Cooper kept saying he couldn’t afford a lawyer.

Eventually Daryl Cooper was found guilty. Ruthie is very glad she went through the trial process, despite the length of time it took. She said that ‘knowing that it won’t happen again’, is what got her through.

She still doesn’t connect with people much and so intimate relationships have suffered. ‘I’ve never really had a lot of friends … I don’t trust anyone really.’

Ruthie’s reluctance to talk about the sexual abuse has meant that she hasn’t pursued counselling. However she has talked to a psychiatrist about what happened so that she can use his report to seek compensation.

Did she have recommendations for the Commission? ‘If accusations have been made against someone, I don’t think they should be allowed to coach.’

Ruthie felt doubly betrayed by Cooper because he was a volunteer in emergency services as well. ‘You see those people … These are the people that children look up to.’

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