This report contains material that is sometimes confronting and disturbing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness and distress, or bring back memories for people affected by child sexual abuse which are very hard to deal with. More on support, reporting and sharing your story.
Names have been changed
The real names of individuals have not been used. The names of all individuals and any other identifying features have been changed.
As the second youngest of nine children, Felicity has few memories of feeling loved and cared for as a child growing up in a ‘dysfunctional’ family in regional Victoria. She recalled being a bright Year 6 student in 1968, when a teacher, Mr Fielding, took an interest in her.
Felicity told the Commissioner, ‘He made me his pet, gave me responsibilities, he asked me to go around and babysit while he and his wife were home. Every time she left the room, he’d kiss me and touch me. We’d be at the drive-in and she’d go for food, he’d be straight in the back seat with me. He’d abuse me in his office at school as well. Looking back at photos, I was a pretty little girl, but that’s not an excuse’.
The abuse included digital penetration, and Felicity recalled she didn’t understand what was happening.
‘I was quite naïve, I knew nothing about sexual stuff at all. I’d try to talk to my mother, but she’d say, “You’ll learn that at school”. I was basically free to do what I wanted as a child. He was very cagey, I thought I’d done something wrong. The boys at school would tease me and I wonder if they knew what was happening to me. The girls were nasty to me as well.’
Felicity’s father died in 1970, and she left school a year later at the age of 14. By 19, she had two children.
‘It was pretty full-on, my life just went from trauma to trauma, I had very few skills as the pattern goes. I moved to Sydney, mixed with wrong people, fell in a dark hole, and I didn’t care. I think I disassociated from it so much that I didn’t want to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. I managed to complete a degree as a single Mum in my 40s, and I’m very proud of that. I did the best I could, I just wanted to be shown as good somehow.’
Battling suicidal thoughts following the death of her daughter, Felicity sought professional help two years ago, hoping to find a way to feel better.
‘I said nothing about the abuse for 44 years, and would use the sessions to talk about my daughter. But it just got to the point where I got so over being depressed. For five years I hadn’t had a relationship. I feel like why shouldn’t I have a good partner? Why am I picking those rotten men, the ones who abuse you? And what had Mr Fielding done to others? I’ve moved over 130 times, I didn’t feel like I fitted anywhere, and couldn’t go on without talking about it.’
Felicity was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and undertook therapy.
‘I’ve been a good actor, I’ve helped others not myself. I always used counselling for losing my daughter, it took a long time to talk about my sexual abuse. I forgave my mother last year, finally let it go. She’s 95. We have a better relationship now.’
By telling her story, Felicity hopes to raise community awareness of sexual abuse within the community.
‘It’s not just in church, it happens in schools too. I used to think, “Why did that happen to me, what did I do wrong?” I felt so useless. Then I think, I was 11, I was a kid.’