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Veronica Marjorie's story

Mr Kingsley’s fingers were stained with nicotine, and Veronica felt ‘frozen on the spot’ when he put them inside her.

At seven years old Veronica assumed she was responsible for what the teacher did to her. ‘I blamed myself for too long. And thought I was just too outgoing, too friendly, maybe craving affection – my father was an alcoholic, and my mother was always depressed. I just used to think, what did I do to attract that attention?’

It was the late 1950s and Kingsley worked as a substitute teacher at the Victorian state school Veronica attended, and used to give her gifts and special jobs at school. She had a stamp album and he would look at her collection, rubbing her leg and digitally penetrating her while he did so.

Although Veronica did not tell anyone what Kingsley was doing to her, another girl reported that she had been sexually abused by him. As a result Veronica’s parents were contacted, and she recalls attending the principal’s office with her mother. She was asked about her interactions with the teacher, but does not know whether she said that he had abused her.

‘I just remember being in the headmaster’s office, this little girl ... I thought he was a towering figure, and he had a booming voice. That’s my memory, that I did something wrong, brought it on myself ... I do remember the headmaster’s office being a bad place to be, because you were always in trouble if you went to the headmaster’s office’.

Veronica was also raped by a boyfriend when in her late teens, but for a long time ‘dismissed’ the impact of these sexual assaults.

She first accessed therapy many years ago, when she became concerned about her mental health. At this stage she did not connect her issues with the abuse, blaming them more on her alcoholic father and other factors in her childhood. ‘I just thought I was harming my children with carrying all this baggage, and I suppose it left depression and rage and stress. And I never ever attributed any of that to a childhood experience.’

As part of her studies in the community services sector, Veronica interviewed young children who had experienced trauma, and this made her further reflect on things that had happened to her.

‘I was just so overwhelmed by having these conversations, and thinking that’s how old I was when this happened to me ... And when my granddaughter was seven, I did think how could people do that? I was worried for her ... It’s just been a very slow awareness.’

It was not until recently that she realised that digital penetration is considered to be rape, when she saw media reports regarding a celebrity who was alleged to have done this to young girls. ‘It was the first time that I ever had seen the words in print, digital rape ... I’d thought fondling, molested, interfered with – all these euphemisms ... It’s sort of minimised, because it sounds like nothing.’

After this she fully recognised that she had been sexually assaulted as a child. ‘That happened to me, and I’d never really sort of acknowledged it.’ She then reported the abuse to the Department of Education and the school. The Department is paying for her to attend counselling, ‘which was astonishing to me, that they were willing to reimburse me for this therapy’.

Counselling allowed has her to explore the impacts of the abuse. ‘It just seemed to emerge over time that this was a major theme, or an issue that had caused me great distress and misery over the years. And some self-harming that I did in my early relationships.’

Her marriage ‘was devoid of sex ... there was no abuse, but it was more like rejection. Then I had a couple of extramarital relationships that were destructive and short-lived. A bit of desperation in there about my identity, my sexual being. I think it was always fraught’.

Veronica has been very careful to minimise the impact her own experiences had on her children. ‘I wanted to be sure to own my own sort of struggles and problems, and not inflict them on my children ... I went into therapy with a psychoanalyst. That was really powerful.’

She has spoken to her current partner about Kingsley, and one of her children accompanied her when she met with the Commissioner to discuss this abuse.

Veronica has now re-visited the school, and found as an adult it was ‘so much smaller than I remembered’. Although it was triggering to return to the scene of the abuse, it was not a totally bad experience.

‘I remembered some happy things, and that was really good. I remembered playing games with tennis balls. I remembered the milk that used to sit in the crate in the boiling sun, that we were forced to drink. I hated that. There were lots of memories of dancing lessons. So it wasn’t all traumatic.’

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