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Alex William's story

Alex attended a private boys’ school in Queensland. He was an average student, enjoyed sports, and had no real problems during his first few years at the school in the mid-1970s. When his parents went overseas for a year at the start of his Year 11, he became a boarder.

Alex couldn’t remember why he was sent to see Mr Barton, the school counsellor. He was one of many boys sexually abused by Barton during counselling sessions that were held after school hours, in an isolated section of the school and behind a locked door.

This abuse happened three times. At the time Alex thought it was a ‘bit weird’ but he went along with it because Barton was the school counsellor, and he had no reason to question him.

He believes that Barton had a ‘walk-in victim set … self-selected … Those sort of people identify those personalities as people likely to be targets’ – those who are most vulnerable.

Alex recalled that Barton hypnotised him during the sessions. After three occasions, Alex decided he didn’t want to see Barton anymore. He believes Barton hypnotised other boys, but because no one talked about seeing the counsellor, they would not have revealed the abuse either.

‘I’m not sure why. I think you’d just be too embarrassed … I don’t know. You just wouldn’t … It was the 70s. There wasn’t … it was all sort of new and I … think everyone was naive and just didn’t think it was possible.’

Alex believes that ‘it’s a very different culture now, so I think through the Royal Commission … people will speak up more, but back then I would have thought … if his office was in a more public place … and he couldn’t lock the door and … you know, if you’ve got that sort of predilection, that’s sort of creating opportunity and I guess, people … didn’t think those things were happening, but that was probably the era when it was always happening’.

After Alex left school, he went to university. He was 17 when one of his lecturers invited him to the pub and then propositioned him when he gave him a lift home in his car. He told Alex that he would make sure he passed his subjects if he had sex with him.

‘Everyone sort of talked about it. Everyone was sort of wary of him, that he was doing things like that, but you know … Well, I said, “No” … [and] he didn’t try anything … I don’t know how many people gave up and agreed.’ Alex was only at university for a short time before his family moved overseas, where he successfully completed his tertiary studies.

Barton was eventually charged with abusing a number of boys at several different schools, but died before his case went to court. ‘Really the only reason I rang the Commission is because, you know, when Barton’s things started coming up, maybe I should … add weight to the evidence sort of thing … I’m not here because I’m broken or anything. It’s more to add weight to the evidence … or add to the knowledge base of what actually happened.’

Alex told the Commissioner that he has been able to put the abuse behind him. ‘I think it’s just bad things happen to people and … [other] people have it a lot worse. So you just put it behind you … To me, I didn’t suffer as much as other people did, so I don’t really have any right to complain too much about it.’

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