Boys from Knox Grammar roared with approval when their headmaster touched a young girl who was taking part in a school musical, an inquiry has heard.
Lucy Perry, who now heads an international women’s health charity, told the child abuse royal commission she was indecently assaulted by the elite Sydney boys school’s former head Ian Paterson in 1989, when she was 15.
Ms Perry, chief executive of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia), said the assault happened in full view of students at the Knox school hall and the boys who saw it “roared with approval”.
She reported the assault to NSW police in 2009, when allegations about sexual abuse at Knox were emerging.
Ms Perry’s school, Roseville College, and Knox Grammar had been jointly staging the musical `Guys and Dolls’.
During one rehearsal, Dr Paterson, who the show’s producer, singled her out, the commission heard on Monday.
As she walked to the edge of the stage “he placed his hand on my backside”.
“I would describe it as between a pat and a grope,” Ms Perry told the commission.
“He then slid his hand right down to cup my buttocks and (I) felt him touch my genitals outside of my clothing.”
Ms Perry continued: “I was humiliated in front of the boys and I heard the boys cheering.
“I was disgusted with Paterson’s behaviour and thought he was demonstrating to the Knox boys that it was perfectly acceptable, even admirable, to be disrespectful to girls.”
Ms Perry, now 41, wasn’t interested in pressing charges against Dr Paterson but changed her mind in 2009.
“I wanted to let police know that I was happy to provide a statement if it was going to be useful to demonstrate the culture of disrespect engendered by the school and to highlight the environment and attitudes fostered by the headmaster,” she said.
Dr Paterson’s solicitor Jim Harrowell asked her if the headmaster was just positioning her on the stage.
“I would suggest to you Mr Harrowell that positioning girls by their bottoms is not the best way to do that,” she said.
Ms Perry was applauded by Knox victims and their supporters as she left the hearing in Sydney.
Earlier on Monday, David Lloyd, counsel assisting the commission, said there was no evidence to support an allegation made during evidence on Friday that James Mein – the former moderator of the Uniting Church – and solicitor Rob Wannan – former chair of the Knox council – were involved in the destruction of sensitive documents.
Mr Lloyd does not intend to recommend a finding they were involved.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse inquiry into Knox continues on Tuesday.