It was a big deal for Asad to talk to the Commissioner about the sexual abuse he suffered at his primary school in Sydney. ‘My life from that day onwards, what happened to me, changed dramatically.’ But telling anyone about it was out of the question for him.
In the late 1980s Asad was in third grade with a boy who was a notorious bully. ‘Everyone was scared of him in the school.’ One day, this boy walked Asad into the toilets and forced him to perform oral sex on him. ‘I was young and I didn’t know how to get out of it.’ He hoped it was a one-time thing, but it wasn’t. Things got worse and worse.
The boy, who was bigger than Asad, lived nearby, so he had easy access. The abuse continued despite Asad saying he didn’t want to do it anymore and that it wasn’t fair. ‘He’d tell me “One more time. One more time”. And I used to keep falling for it … and I used to do it.’
Asad was sexually abused at least once a fortnight, sometimes more often, and these assaults continued throughout primary school and into the first year of high school. Asad grew more aggressive at school. He sat at the back of the classroom, not taking part and not talking.
‘From that day onwards, this is where everything went wrong with me.’
Teachers noticed that Asad’s behaviour had changed but they didn’t ask him if anything was wrong. A teacher tried to put him on detention and he bit her. ‘All this frustration in me and I didn’t know how to go on with that.’
Even if they had asked him what was wrong, Asad said there is no way he would have told them. So he just shut down. His grades dropped and his parents got frustrated. Asad loved his parents, especially his dad – ‘He’s my rock’ – but they’re old school and the potential embarrassment of disclosing was too much for him.
Finally the bully’s family moved out of the neighbourhood. Then Asad saw him years later, when he was in his late teens.
‘I was looking at him … I didn’t know what to do. I was very, very angry ... Should I go hit him? Should I approach him? But I walked away.’
Seeing the boy again sent Asad into a spiral of suicidal thoughts and self-hatred, which he tamped down with intensive pot smoking. ‘My mind goes somewhere else when I smoke that.’ But he kept asking himself, ‘Who can I talk to?’
The answer was no one, at least not yet. He switched to harder drugs but the sexual abuse still weighed on him heavily. ‘It’s just on my back the whole time. I don’t know how to get rid of it.’
Asad is currently in jail as a result of his drug use. He is keen to talk to a counsellor when he finishes his sentence but he is adamant that his family will never know what happened to him. Nor will he report the sexual abuse to the police.
What might have made a difference for him? If teachers had done more than just punish him for his different behaviour and his anger, Asad told the Commissioner, he thinks he might have said something about the abuse back then. Also, if they had done something about the bullying, things might have turned out differently.
He was talkative before he was sexually abused, Asad said. But now ‘I don’t talk ... I leave everything inside me and it just builds and builds and builds. And I don’t know what to do with it … I just don’t know what to do with it.’