Darren Clinckett pictured in 2008 with Alex on New Year’s Eve in Sydney on the night he proposed, before her 16th birthday.
Darren Clinckett pictured in 2008 with Alex on New Year’s Eve in Sydney on the night he proposed, before her 16th birthday.

Abused, pregnant: predator teacher preyed on teen

It all began with a note.

"I noticed that he had been sending notes back and forth to girl students in the classroom and I thought this was just his way to get to know each student," Alex said.

"So I sent him one saying, 'Hi how are you?'"

Alex was 15 years old and being relentlessly bullied at her school when charismatic teacher Darren Clinckett took a shine to her.

"Something about him seemed like I could trust him," she said.

"It took a long time for me to realise what he had done and how he had gone about it all."

Alex, now 28, is sharing her story of abuse - and her gruelling fight with authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice - to raise awareness about child grooming.

In 2008, Clinckett was hired as a design and technology teacher and photographer for a Lutheran school in the Redlands at a time when Alex's world was crumbling.

"My grades were going down, I was having issues at home and I confided in him because he gave me that attention and made me feel safe," she.

Over the next five months the 28-year-old wove his way into her life, slowly gaining Alex's trust, and the trust of her family.

When Clinckett approached her mother and stepfather in late 2008 offering to "help them out" by placing Alex with a church family, they agreed.

They did not know that he had already abused their daughter or that instead of being placed with a family, she would be moved into his Redland Bay unit - the beginning of a seven-year nightmare.

"The first night I moved in with him, he made me shave his pubic region and masturbate him and perform oral sex on him," Alex said.

"I didn't like doing it, I told him I didn't like doing it and he told me I'd get used to it.

"The taste and texture and smell of it made me throw up … and he would laugh."

Alex recalls during this time she dropped out of school and that a false bedroom was set up in the unit to avoid detection in case visitors came by.

Clinckett and his mother also asked Alex to sign affidavits stating that their sexual relationship had not occurred while she was underage.

She was coached to say he was just a "family friend" if questioned by outsiders.

"He made me keep secrets, secrets were a big thing," she said.

"He ensured that I wasn't to leave the house at all. Everything was locked up, the windows were closed, doors were closed, blinds were closed, I wasn't allowed to open the door for anyone."

Former teacher Darren Clinckett with Alex and their child
Former teacher Darren Clinckett with Alex and their child

When she was 16, Alex fell pregnant.

They married five days after her 18th birthday and had three children before she mustered the courage to leave in 2016, and revelations of the abuse surfaced.

With the support of her mother, Alex made a formal complaint to the Queensland College of Teachers triggering an investigation and Clinckett's deregistration in 2019 - almost a decade after the abuse began.

It would take another three years before Clinckett would be jailed.

When she first left Clinckett, Alex bravely went to the police to give a statement.

But when Clinckett lied and told investigating officers that their relationship had not begun until she was 16, her complaints were not taken further.

Alex had almost given up on police when she met senior constable Bill McIntyre from the Wynnum Child Protection and Investigation Unit who went "to the ends of the earth" to gather enough evidence to convict Clinckett.

"Bill's helped me get some form of justice," she.

"Do I think that's enough? No I don't. Ten months in jail isn't a consequence. He took my childhood and he destroyed my life."

The 42-year-old was sentenced in March to 3.5 years' jail, suspended after 10 months, after pleading guilty in the Brisbane District Court to maintaining a relationship with a child and nine counts of indecent treatment of a child.

Former teacher Darren Clinckett was jailed after he pleaded guilty to maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child.
Former teacher Darren Clinckett was jailed after he pleaded guilty to maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child.

According to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it takes survivors an average of 24 years to tell anyone - if they tell anyone at all.

It was a staggering statistic highlighted in a recent speech made by 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who called on the community to listen to survivors' stories.

"While they're disturbing to hear, the reality of what goes on behind closed doors is more so," she told the National Press Club.

"And the more details we omit for fear of disturbance, the more we soften these crimes.

"The more we shield perpetrators from the shame that is resultedly misdirected to their targets."

After feeling silenced for too long, Alex has spoken out to place the shame where it belongs.

"I want people to hear my side because there are a lot of people that look at these stories and only see what they want to see and they blame us," she.

"They think that we wanted it, that we allowed it to happen.

"I want people to know that sometimes there is no other way for us to get away from it because they have cut us off from the outside world."

Alex has recently completed her certificate three in security through TAFE and is focused on raising her three children, aged 6, 9, and 11, to be the "best humans" that they can be.

She also has hopes to share her story with students to give them the tools to spot the warning signs of grooming.


Originally published as Abused, pregnant, childhood destroyed: Predator teacher preyed on teen


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