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Vika Rose's story

‘We’re going to get you. We’re going to fuck you stupid.’

That’s what two Victorian schoolboys said at a sports tournament in Tasmania in the mid-1970s. Billeted with students at a Hobart school, they’d targeted 15-year-old Vika Rose, and threatened her relentlessly at a playing field.

Vika felt uncomfortable, but ‘I didn’t worry about it because I had all of my fellow students around’, she says.

A little later that year, Vika and her classmates headed across Bass Strait to watch the VFL Grand Final in Melbourne.

‘After the game, we decided to go to the bottle shop. Myself and one of the boys got all this alcohol and took it back to the hostel.’

None of the supervising teachers were present.

‘I got drunk for the first time, and it wasn’t good. So I went back to my room.’

She crashed out – and woke to a nightmare. The Victorian youths had turned up to renew acquaintance with their Hobart host and had learned Vika was present.

‘I woke up and the two boys were in the room, and the rape had already started. I can remember telling them to get off me … I came to at another stage and they’re still doing it.’

Vika’s fellow students came in into the room at one point, but failed to do anything to stop the assault.

‘I had to be sick. I managed to get up and go into the bathroom.’ The youths followed and raped Vika again. ‘I went back to my bed – and it just went on. That’s when the other students were there, though I can’t really remember who was there in the room …

‘The boys, they took turns … At one stage – I don’t know how I’m supposed to say this – they talked about anal sex. It was just horrible.’

At daybreak, Vika woke once more feeling dirty and very sore. One of the supervising teachers arrived. ‘He sat on the bed and talked with me about how stupid it was to get alcohol. And that was about it.’

She believes the teacher had heard about the attack. ‘I knew that he knew more then, that he didn’t mention it. And I was left to feel responsible because of the alcohol, that if we hadn’t consumed it then this wouldn’t have happened.’

Vika faced a dilemma. ‘My mum had just started working at the school. I worried that if I said anything, she’d lose her job. So after we got back to Hobart, I didn’t tell Mum, I didn’t report it to the school or the police. I told nobody.’

This didn’t make what happened disappear. ‘I’d been a good student, I had dreams of what I wanted to do as an adult, I’d always been interested in architecture, archeology, teaching – and those chances had just been ripped out.’

Vika left school that year and didn’t pursue any further education. Sleep became difficult and she has attempted suicide several times, the first time shortly after the rape. She has spent time in psychiatric hospitals and is on medication for depression and anxiety. Maintaining employment is hard: ‘Jobs – three years is the longest I’ve spent …’

Vika decided not to have children because she didn’t want to have a daughter who could be abused, nor a son who could abuse someone.

‘My relationships with men, the longest one was three years, and that ended in failure. They all ended badly … I’m in my mid-50s and my entire life has been a mess. And this all started from that night in Melbourne.’

When the Royal Commission was announced, Vika was moved to approach the Department of Education. There was no reply to her letter outlining the story. Instead, to her anger and despair, the issue was passed on without her consent. ‘Instead of receiving a letter or a phone call or an email from them, I got a letter from Tasmanian police.’

The police interviewed Vika, then handed the matter over to their Victorian counterparts, who tried but couldn’t positively identify the offenders. Vika herself has long tried to bury their identities. ‘I pushed all of the names out of my head. It’s trying to remember what I don’t want to remember … The police action is pretty much at an end.’

Vika says teachers need to know what to do if they are aware a student has been sexually abused. And a dedicated government arm should be established to hear stories like hers. ‘When bad things happen, you’ve got somewhere to go.’

Otherwise, victims can feel stuck. ‘Since this happened, I’ve never had the chance to grow up. I’ve always been this 15-year-old girl who was saving her mum’s job.’

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