*The below is a chapter summary only of the Interim Report. You can download the chapter in full at the bottom of the page. 

Community

Content warning

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.

Barbara

Camping trips and adventures are part of the scouting lifestyle, and when Amy graduated to a Sydney Venturer Scout Unit in 2002 at the age of 14, her mother Barbara continued to feel her daughter was safe during excursions.

But at 15, Barbara told the Commissioner, Amy said that ‘something was happening’ with an older, male Venturer leader, and Barbara hugged and expressed support for her eldest daughter.

‘I spoke to my husband who was a scout leader at that time and he felt that Keith may have just looked at her the wrong way. He knew Keith through the scouting community, so I started to think Amy may be attention-seeking or jealous of her younger sister.’ Amy also told police, who advised the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

‘I received a call from DOCS but by that stage Amy backed out of wanting to pursue anything because she was feeling we didn’t believe her, and so the abuse continued for another two years.’

Wherever there was an opportunity, Barbara believes Keith took advantage of the then young teenager.

‘Amy’s father was physically and verbally abusive to her at home, and Keith became her close friend. He’d tell her she was very beautiful, and that she didn’t deserve to be treated like that. He was the father figure she didn’t have and that’s how he got by with being alone with her in the car, he’d talk to her about her family problems.’

When Amy’s behaviour changed radically, Barbara arranged counselling.

‘She was doing things like rocking, head-banging, cutting herself but she never revealed anything to her counsellor. Schizophrenia runs in my family, so we thought she might be suffering a mental illness.’

One night in 2005, Barbara told the Commissioner, police came to the family home and took Amy away without explanation. By that stage Barbara said her husband was no longer ‘on the scene’.

‘There was no support to explain what was happening, they just took her, it was a really horrible experience. The next morning a detective came over to explain someone had reported her sexual abuse and told me Keith had watched Amy dress and undress, as well as touched, kissed and licked her body and digitally penetrated her.’

Barbara said that after enduring the abuse for three and a half years, Amy was in a fragile mental state and ill-equipped to cope with the ensuing court trial.

‘My daughter gave evidence, but was unfortunately quite hysterical at the time and couldn’t speak very well. Keith didn’t have to speak at all, the inequity of it all was totally ludicrous and going through that court case was as bad as the abuse itself.’

Keith was found not guilty, but Amy received Victims of Crime Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 183 compensation. Barbara said Amy’s chances of leading a normal life have been ruined.

‘It’s taken away her childhood and ability to form normal, intimate relationships. She’s not been able to join the workforce, has post-traumatic stress disorder and is bipolar. She’s quite obese because she’s eaten herself into oblivion, doesn’t like social situations, like she’s just a total disaster.’

Amy attends regular therapy sessions, and Barbara explained that the financial strain of her ongoing psychological and medical appointments is a constant burden.

‘I’m living with the consequences of not taking action earlier, it affects my work and my home life.’ But the greatest disappointment for Barbara is the scouting community’s response following the trial.

‘They had a beach party to celebrate after he got off, with scout leaders and venturers. And what support did we get? Nothing, nothing at all, they were all on his side.’

Barbara would like to see the Scout Association take its duty of care to young members more seriously.