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Caleb's story

Caleb grew up in a devoutly religious family. He was sent to a Christian boarding school in the mid-1970s when he was about 12 years old. Within the first six months he was raped by the groundskeeper, and forced to perform oral sex on one of the teachers.

He left the school at the end of the year and experienced no more abuse from the teacher. But the groundskeeper was a family friend who continued to have access to Caleb, abusing him multiple times over the course of several years.

Caleb didn’t speak to anyone about the abuse until the mid-1980s when he reported it to his father.

‘He told me not to tell my mother because it would upset her. He organised the psychologist for me and that was it.’

Caleb had a session with the psychologist and told him what had happened, but the man didn’t believe his story.

‘I went to him and said that this guy has to be charged – this is the groundsman – I said he has to be charged, and I said I was going to the police, and I was in tears, and he said that he didn’t think it would be a very good idea because it wouldn’t stand up in court.’

Nevertheless, Caleb went to police and made a statement. He also disclosed the abuse to his brother and a senior staff member at the school. A few days later the groundskeeper resigned.

Around that time, Caleb wrote a letter to the school board warning them about the teacher who had abused him. That man quickly disappeared from the school as well.

As far as Caleb knows, no police action was taken against either of the men.

Meanwhile, Caleb did his best to get on with life, working successfully in a number of positions of high responsibility, but he struggled every day with the legacy of the abuse. By the late 2000s his mental state was strained to the point of breakdown. Fortunately, his daughter saw what was going on and alerted her school counsellor, who organised for Caleb to get help.

‘I was suicidal. I went into hospital, a voluntary admission. I’ve been admitted for acute pancreatitis about nine times. I’m an alcoholic and I’m dependent on tobacco. I’m taking all sorts of medication. Anti-depressants and stuff to help me sleep. I was seeing a psychiatrist about every 10 days in [2000s], but I’m sort of coming through it now.’

Caleb’s breakdown became the catalyst for a new police investigation. This time both offenders were charged. The groundskeeper pleaded guilty and was sentenced to over 20 years in jail. Caleb was pleased with the outcome.

The case against the teacher, however, was disappointing. The prosecutors formed the view – ‘and rightly so’ – that Caleb was too sick to give evidence. As a result, several charges were dropped and there was no trial. The teacher pleaded guilty to four offences and was given a suspended sentence.

Caleb said his life is improving now thanks to his psychiatric care and the support of his family, but there is still a long road ahead. ‘To report something like that, and the severity of it, and go through the police process and everything else, that takes its toll. Not only on you but on everyone around you.’

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