‘It’s in your dreams. It’s in your sexual experiences. It’s in your everything. It’s like your first love, you know. Of course you’re never going to forget it.’
In the early 1980s, Tia was a student at a state primary school in northern New South Wales. ‘I found out I was adopted around the age of 10 … and my mum went to Mr Dymon, my principal, and said, “Tia’s just found out she’s adopted”. And Mr Dymon embraced me and said, “Oh, you poor kid” and kind of made me feel warm and special, and wanted …
‘Because I got told my parents didn’t want me … So I sought comfort in him … He was never cruel to me, it was all the “nice” grooming, and the “nice” sexual molesting …
‘And I’ve seen other little girls like that since. They’re the ones that crave the closeness, and they’ll find people to molest them because that’s the only comfort and holding they know. Children that never got held, like, adopted … It’s the holding and a closeness you’ve never had.’
Dymon sexually abused Tia a number of times. At the last incident his son, who was also a student at the school, abused her as well. In later years she heard that the son had died of a drug overdose.
Tia said the abuse ‘infected’ her life immediately. ‘Overnight I changed. I went home and I looked in the mirror … It was just an innocent little girl that thought she was going to be a princess, to like a burnt sort of soldier … a little girl that can show no emotion …
‘Never been the same.’
As she grew up Tia started using drugs and overdosed on numerous occasions. She had no self-worth and couldn’t sustain relationships. ‘No one’s allowed to get close in my life, ever. I don’t trust anyone. And I want to. I want to come back to the community and be productive.
‘For the amount of time the event took … like, it’s not like a snake bite, “Oh, 20 minutes after being bitten by a snake ...” [over 30] years later, it’s worse than ever, really.’
She never told anyone about Dymon. ‘My adopted parents were real old-school parents … I always felt like things were my fault. I never had the voice …
‘And I believe, if I came out then, I would’ve got re-fostered to another home. I wouldn’t have been believed. I’ve kind of come to the peace that I’m glad I didn’t then. Because I’ve seen the children that did then – They weren’t believed. They were branded and labelled.’
In the late 2000s, Tia came into contact with the Department of Community Services. She told a caseworker about the sexual abuse and he encouraged her to report Dymon.
Soon after, Tia told her mother and then the police, who put her in touch with a detective, Roger Harn. When Dymon was questioned he denied Tia’s allegations and, because it was his word against hers, the investigation was dropped.
‘And I sat on that for a bit and I said, “No” … and I said I was going to take the matters into my own hands … [Harn] said he has to protect Mr Dymon now, so I got an AVO [apprehended violence order] against me.’
To put the AVO into effect, Dymon had to face Tia in court. ‘That was good, getting him into court, because I wanted the court to see him … I felt so strong … I couldn’t say how great that felt to do that, really.’
Since then Tia has been trying without success for restorative justice, where she gets the chance to talk to her abuser face to face.
‘I’m not sure if I can get rid of his silver tongue and get the truth. And then I have violent rage to him, murderous rage … I need refuge somewhere ... I can’t ever understand the full story. I can’t …
‘I’m sick of this victim status.’
As part of her healing, Tia is studying for a career in counselling, working with both survivors and perpetrators. ‘I’m reaching for a lifeline. I don’t feel any other pull in any other career. Just to try and have understanding, to work with them … They were once a victim as well, and we all sat on the same seat ...
‘I just want to have the courage to make a difference, and not have the hate ... Try and get the community to understand, it’s not just the bad boy in jail. He’s usually the victim.’
She believes there needs to be more places where children can report abuse, such as help lines. And most importantly, more education about what is not appropriate.
‘If Red Riding Hood had known about the Big Bad Wolf a little bit clearer … Prevention’s better than cure … To have no education and no awareness for children, they’re kind of sitting ducks.’