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Brad's story

In the early 1980s, Brad entered his final year at the local public primary school. His teacher, Mr Toohey, was popular with both students and parents because he often went out of his way to organise extra-curricular activities for the kids. Brad said, ‘He had a minivan type thing that he’d take groups of kids to the speedway on Friday night, football on a Saturday afternoon and stuff like that’.

Looking back, Brad suspects that Mr Toohey pre-meditated the abuse that followed. ‘He knew my history, in terms of my home life, that my parents had split up, and maybe that’s why I became a target.’

As well as the weekend sporting trips, Mr Toohey also organised sleepovers at the school. It was during one of these sleepovers that Brad was abused.

‘I was asleep and then he came in behind me, laid behind me and proceeded to fondle me and play with me and stuff like that. I don’t know how long it lasted, it could have been 10 minutes, it could have been three hours. I just froze … I didn’t know what to do, I was only 12. It was really scary. It was really frightening.’

Mr Toohey didn’t say anything during the incident. When he was done he just got up and left. The next morning he dropped Brad home.

‘I can remember very vividly, my Mum was outside watering the lawn. I walked straight past her, I couldn’t face her. I know she commented and said, “How was it?” I just said, “Yep. Fine”, and just went into my room and just sat in my room for, I don’t know, it could have been all day. I don’t know what I felt. It was just terrible. It really was.’

From there, the ‘hardest thing’ was having to go back to school and face Mr Toohey again. Brad was terrified of being caught alone with him. In class he was struck by how distant the teacher suddenly seemed, ‘as if he got what he wanted’ and now wasn’t interested in Brad.

There were no more incidents. Brad managed to get through the year and then moved on to high school. He no longer had to see Mr Toohey but by then the abuse had made a deep mark on him, psychologically.

‘Right from then til now I’ve been very much a “pleasing person”. Just, to make sure that I didn’t get asked, I didn’t get confronted about, “Why are you behaving like that, why are you doing that?” I’d always say what I anticipated people wanted to hear. So I tried to manipulate my situations so that there’d be no confrontation, there’d be no questioning.’

Brad said that he managed to succeed at school and in the workforce because, for him, success was a way of avoiding scrutiny and proving that he was ‘normal’.

The trauma continued into his marriage. Brad never told his wife what had happened to him because she was, ‘very controlling in nature. I always felt judged’. The abuse also affected his relationship with his son.

‘So many times, him being on the change table, changing his nappy, and being too scared to wipe him because – just for the fact that it feels weird in my head. Maybe I was a paedophile or something like that. That was really difficult. There was many times when I stood in front of the mirror after a shower or stuff, just questioning who I was, questioning should I be gay, questioning everything.’

Just a few weeks before speaking with the Commissioner, Brad opened up about the abuse for the first time ever. The turning point came after he left his wife and started a new relationship.

‘To me that’s the biggest thing: to have someone in my life who won’t judge me, doesn’t judge me, who cares, loves and supports me, has been the biggest thing to being able to finally let it out.’

Brad told his partner and she encouraged him to seek counselling, which he did. Brad also disclosed to his mother and sister, who were both supportive. Then, on the advice of the counsellor, he contacted police.

Brad made his statement online, which he said made the whole process ‘a lot smoother and a lot less scary’. He was impressed with the quick response from police but disappointed with what they had to say. They told him that Mr Toohey had served some time in jail for abusing other children and was now dead.

‘I felt quite angry, because I’d made the report and then it stopped, and now there’s nothing for me. It’s almost as though he’s got away with it.’

Brad said that his next step will be to seek redress from the school.

‘I think I need that for my own benefit because there’s still this doubt in my head that people may not believe me, may not think that it happened … Whether it’s compensation, whether it’s an apology, whether it’s the Education Department or whoever, I think for my own wellbeing, I need something like that.’

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