Benedict Michael's story

‘I was just a quiet unassuming kid and I was turned into an aggressive, arrogant bastard my whole life.’

Benedict attended a Presbyterian school and took up swimming in Form 2. ‘You had to excel at something – I could swim.’ He was encouraged by the school and began training at a private swimming school. Within six months he had achieved terrific results at regional and state competitions.

Benedict looked up to his swimming coach. ‘He had me. I was this little kid who he had control of because he’d made me something out of nothing.’

He was 12 when his coach began coming over for dinner and arriving unannounced to spend time with him. Benedict now realises the man was grooming his family. This was made easier because Benedict’s father was an alcoholic and often absent due to his job.

Benedict was training five days a week morning and night, and most days the coach would pick him up and drop him off.

‘He tried to become a father figure in a way because dad was away … and he was a school teacher so he helped a little bit … morning and night he was there.’

While at the pool the coach encouraged Benedict to look at girls and talk about them in a sexual way.

With his parents’ knowledge, the coach began taking Benedict on overnight trips and the grooming escalated to frequent sexual abuse, including anal penetration. It continued for 18 months.

In his early teens, Benedict convinced his parents that he needed to change swimming clubs. ‘I don’t know how I convinced them but … it was basically getting away from him.’ This survival instinct has stayed with Benedict throughout his life.

He excelled at the new club and won a number of titles. His old coach soon began to visit his house again. ‘And whenever [he] was in our house, I would be in my bedroom. I would just hide.

‘Then I gave up swimming. I got out of it.’

Benedict didn’t tell anyone about his abuse and continued with his schooling, scraping through to finish Year 12. He left the city and lived for many years in the outback and overseas.

Anger has been a constant in Benedict’s life since the abuse. ‘I still didn’t realise why my anger was there. I had no idea until [the] Royal Commission. No idea.’ Benedict had ‘dropped that in my memory, I’d dropped it all, I’d put it away, it was hidden’.

The anger has affected his career. ‘I’ve still got this problem with authority … I’ve fought everyone my whole life. A lot of it is internal but I don’t stand down … I’ve got the brains not to say stupid things at the wrong time, I can get through the cracks. But it’s a lot of stress doing it.’

Relationships and intimacy have also been very difficult. Benedict’s first marriage dissolved because he was unable to have sex and, even though he and his second wife have two children, he still struggles. ‘I see sex as a dirty thing.’ He’s recently told his wife about the abuse and they are working together to improve their relationship.

‘My wife’s incredible. She’s incredible.’ He is very protective of his children and they are growing up happy and well loved. ‘I’m trying to get around this. It is very hard. I’m doing my best.’

Benedict watched a public session of the Royal Commission on television and came to understand that he’d been sexually abused as a child. He searched the internet for the effects of abuse and ‘sat there in tears going, “You’ve got to be joking – this is me – the whole lot of it”’.

He’ll give evidence in a criminal case brought against his former coach, and will be joined by a number of other boys. He is also keen to pursue civil cases against the school and the swimming club.

It worries Benedict that there is not more scrutiny of staff in the non-government school system and over community organisations such as swimming clubs, and he would like to see the culture of those schools change.

‘My whole life has been escaping. Now I can settle this once and for all.’

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