Woman sexually assaulted by oncologist says she ‘will never be the same’

By court reporter Karl Hoerr

A woman who was drugged and indecently assaulted by a Sydney oncologist three years ago says the incident left her world “broken”.

John Kearsley was the director of radiation oncology at St George Hospital when he placed benzodiazepine into a glass of wine he gave to the woman when she came to his house for dinner in 2013. He then indecently assaulted her.

At the time, the woman was a medical trainee in the same field.

In a victim impact statement read by a friend during a sentencing hearing, the woman said she knew that coming forward would cause problems for her career.

“I was at risk of being labelled a troublemaker,” she said.

The woman also said everything changed for her on the day of the assault.

“My world is broken and it will never be the same. My whole belief system collapsed,” she said.

Kearsley has pleaded guilty to administering an intoxicating substance and indecent assault.

The University of NSW withdrew Kearsley’s appointment and the Medical Council of New South Wales suspended his registration following his guilty plea.

Kearsley has since written to the victim, attributing his behaviour to his work and stress, as well as drinking.

“What I read in this letter are excuses,” the victim said.

“He is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions and I can’t help thinking that he is insulting my intelligence.”

‘There is an obvious imbalance in power’

The woman said she was told many times that she would be the one to lose through the court process.

“There is an obvious imbalance in power and I couldn’t help but feel small,” she said.

The victim said she once had so much respect for Kearsley and always called him ‘Prof’.

She said the incident had a major impact on her sense of self-worth.

“Time is supposed to heal all wounds but I am still waiting,” she said.

Two former colleagues gave character evidence for Kearsley, including a nursing manager who worked alongside him for many years.

She described him as professional and a true gentleman, and said he faced a demanding workload.

The court was told Kearsley saw an average of up to 450 patients a year, many with terrible cancer prognoses.

A speech pathologist who also worked with him said the offending was hard to reconcile with the man she had known for 19 years.

Kearsley will be sentenced at a later date.