Don’t Tell opens with the harrowing images of a now 21 year old Lyndal (West) having sex with a married man while his wife, shotgun in hand, bangs on the door. This scene is interlaced with her memory of being sexually abused by a teacher when she was just 12 years old, the teacher whispering ‘don’t tell’ to the traumatised child.
It is confronting and so very difficult to watch. But watch it you must because Lyndal and every other child who has suffered at the hands of an adult must be heard and they must be believed.
If you have been told don’t tell. Don’t listen.This compelling Australian movie is based on the book of the same name, written by lawyer Stephen Roche. Roche (Young) is approached by psychologist Joy (Griffiths) to take on Lyndal’s case. Lyndal was a student at the prestigious Anglican run Toowoomba Prep school and it is here that she and many other girls were preyed upon by Head Teacher Kevin Guy (Grantley). The school, it seems, knew about the abuse but did nothing. Well, they did worse than nothing because they covered it up and dismissed the children’s stories as lies.
Lyndal tried to tell but she wasn’t believed. She told her mother Sue (Porter) but unable to grasp the horrible reality of her daughter’s plight, Sue ignored her pleas for help and sent her back to the school.
Lyndal has now grown into a very troubled young woman who rages against the world with all the angst of that tormented child but sadly, she rages mostly against herself, choosing to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol and inappropriate sexual encounters.
West’s blank eyed, clinical re-telling of the abuse is almost too much to bearBy the time Roche reluctantly agrees to take on her case, Lyndal has nothing left to lose and will not accept the paltry ‘token’ settlement amount she is offered to go away and keep quiet. Lyndal wants to go to court. She wants to tell her story.
The court case is another level of anger and disbelief as we watch the school’s defense barrister, Jean Dalton (McKenzie) …. another woman no less….. try to discredit Sue and every other woman who takes the stand. The way their words and stories are twisted is cruel. I wonder how she and others like her sleep at night!
There are no words to describe Lyndal’s testimony. The screenwriters and Director did not shy away from the horror that awaited that little girl each time she was abused and West’s blank eyed, clinical re-telling of the abuse is almost too much to bear. But it was her testimony that altered the legal system forever and caused the Queensland government to overhaul and re-evaluate the way they protect children from predators.
Since the 2013 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was opened, more than 40,000 people have come forward to tell their stories. Can you imagine how many more have passed away, taken their own lives or are simply too broken or ashamed to come forward?
This movie, with its stellar cast and that associated gravitas, is one way to continue to bring attention to these crimes which are still being committed and still being covered up. It is also unafraid to shine the light on the abhorrent practices of all responsible institutions who consider the financial outcomes of such situations before the well-being of any individual involved. A scene where the Anglican Arch Bishop asks only that his name be kept out of it and a crony quips that it also be settled cheaply is disgusting.
This is a movie we all need to see and we all need to talk to our kids about. This girl could be you or me. She could be the kid down the road, the woman standing next to you on the train, the bloke who smiled back when you let him into traffic or the old person who reminisces with a sad sigh.
If you have been told don’t tell. Don’t listen.
Please visit the Don’t Tell Movie Facebook page for a list of organisations that can help if you want to tell.
Director : Tori Garrett
Starring : Jack Thompson, Aden Young, Sara West, Kiara Freeman, Rachel Griffiths, Jacqueline McKenzie, Susie Porter, Gyton Grantley, Robert Taylor, Martin Sacks, Robert Coleby
Running Time : 110 minutes
Release Date : May 18
If it's on in Newcastle, it's on Newcastle Live