Tracey's story

It seemed strange to Tracey that Mr Edmunds asked her to come to his house for a music lesson on a Saturday, but her parents had believed him when he said his schedule at the Uniting Church school in Victoria was booked out.

‘My parents were teachers and assumed that all teachers were good, so I just went along with it.’

Tracey told the Commissioner that Mr Edmunds would sometimes touch her inappropriately when they were alone in ways that ‘felt very sexual’.

One day in the 1980s, Tracey was nearing her 16th birthday when she walked out of the lesson.

‘I’d had enough of him touching me, so I left. But he persuaded me to come back that afternoon, which I now realise was so stupid. I went back and he raped me. At the time I felt frozen, but as soon as I could get myself together I ran home. I jumped into the shower, and could see his vivid fingerprints on my arms in the bathroom mirror.’

Tracey kept the rape secret until her best friend Sally revealed Mr Edmunds had been asking her to go to his house for a private music lesson.

‘That’s when I knew I wasn’t the only one being targeted, so I told Sally what he’d done to me and we decided to say something.’

The two Year 10 students reported the rape to a school counsellor, who immediately informed the principal.

‘We were called into the principal’s office and he told us Mr Edmunds would be sacked, never to work in a school again. My parents were called and told about my rape, but the principal urged them not to go to the police, so they didn’t because they trusted the school to handle it.’

Later Tracey learnt Mr Edmunds was suing the school for unfair dismissal, and she and Sally were asked to give evidence at a tribunal.

‘Mr Edmunds sat a metre across the table smirking at me. That day was almost as traumatic as the rape itself. His lawyer went to town on me, and nobody stood up to defend me or stop them accusing me of making the whole story up, they read parts of my diary. It was a very distressing experience.’

Tracey was devastated to later learn the school agreed to pay Mr Edmunds a sum of money and provide him with a reference as part of a settlement deal. She found out that he went on to work in state schools, and he continued to abuse girls.

‘My school was protecting its own interests, they didn’t care about my family. It’s been so hard on my parents, and for years I’ve felt a sense of shame, like I was a dirty person. I feel very guilty because so many other girls suffered later in other schools. I think maybe I could have stopped it.’

‘My anxiety levels have improved since I started seeing a wonderful psychologist. For a decade after the rape I couldn’t sleep through the night and now I can. But my life has been ruined. I ended up in a physically abusive relationship for 20 years because I felt I didn’t deserve better. I’ve tried to kill myself, I’ve abused alcohol, I’ve starved myself, I’ve done everything to punish myself for what happened.’

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