Shayley was raised in a Catholic family in Sydney’s north and attended the local Catholic primary and high schools. In the mid-1980s her fourth class teacher was Vince Hogarth, who was quite young and new to the school. Hogarth would ask students to line up out the front of the class with their artwork, and then call for votes as he patted each student in turn on the head or shoulder.
‘With the girls it was more of a massage than just placing a hand on your shoulder’, Shayley told the Commissioner. Her friends would discuss Hogarth in the playground; they would say Hogarth was rubbing their backs to check if they were wearing a bra.
Shayley soon experienced more intrusive touching from Vince Hogarth. He would call her to his desk at the front of the room. While she was behind his desk, he would slip his hand under her dress, trace his hand over her underwear and ‘explore’. None of the other girls spoke about this kind of treatment. Shayley did not like what he was doing to her. She stood away from him if she was called to the front of the class, but he would pull her closer on the pretext of giving her a hug. The assaults happened many times.
Shayley did not disclose the abuse straight away.
‘I was at home with Mum one day, in the car in the driveway. She patted me on the leg and I told her not to touch me and she went, “Why would you say that to me?” That’s when I told her what was happening behind the desk.’
Shayley’s mother immediately went to see Sister Bethany, the principal of the school. The nun refused to believe Shayley’s story. ‘Mum’s still angry about it. She was told her daughter is a liar, “She’s no good, she’s naughty, she just wants to change classes to be with her friends. Fine, we’ll just change classes to shut you up”.’
Shayley believes Sister Bethany was trying to protect the reputation of the Church and the school by taking the easy option of moving her out of Hogarth’s way.
A few weeks later Hogarth left the school and did not return. ‘It wasn’t my complaint that got him out of the school, it was another girl’s complaint.’ Rumours flew about exactly what had happened. It was said another girl’s parents took her complaint straight to the police and that Hogarth had been escorted off the school grounds. Whatever occurred, Shayley was never contacted by the police. Nor did Sister Bethany apologise to Shayley or to her mother.
She does not know what happened to Hogarth at the time. She recently found a reference to him online and notes he has a family now. Shayley would be concerned if Hogarth was still in contact with children through teaching. She asked the Royal Commission to pass on his name to the police for checking.
Shayley feels she has moved on from the abuse.
‘I’ve actually been okay. I had a really fantastic mum who just talked me through it, got me out of there. By speaking up I knew I was doing the right thing. I felt a bit embarrassed at times, but I didn’t feel embarrassed in a bad way.’
‘I don’t think I’m tarnished in any respect. If anything I’m just really disappointed in Sister Bethany and the way she handled it.’
The Catholic Church still has a powerful influence on people. Both Shayley’s parents are still alive, but Shayley has never disclosed the abuse to her father. Her mother has been a great support and still gets angry about what happened, but she has also kept the secret.
‘Mum didn’t tell Dad because Dad’s a devout Catholic and she didn’t want to. She’s terrified of his reaction, so she’s always kept it to herself, even to today.’