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Calvin Michael's story

Calvin was born in the late 1950s, and grew up in a large and ‘disjointed’, strongly Catholic family. His father was a harsh disciplinarian, who was emotionally and physically violent and subjected Calvin to ‘constant put-downs’.

His mother was very subservient and fearful of her husband, and did not intervene to protect Calvin from him. ‘My mother didn’t show us affection. And one time she made a comment that stuck with me – “I never showed my boys affection because I was frightened they’d become homosexual”.’

When Calvin was about 10 years old his parents were befriended by Mathew Baker, a teacher at a prestigious independent school in Brisbane. Although Calvin and his siblings did not attend this school, his older brothers knew Baker through their mutual association in the air force cadets.

Baker ‘became a trusted friend within our family and displayed a manner that was jovial, polite and caring’. He groomed Calvin’s parents, who respected him because of the ‘high credentials’ that came with working for a well-regarded school.

The school where Baker worked was near Calvin’s home, so Baker had easy access to the family. Calvin remembers Baker ‘as being a very friendly, easy-going and thoughtful person’, who would drive his brothers home after cadets. The teacher would also offer to meet Calvin and drive him home after school, which ‘was often followed up with meals and time being shared with our family’.

Calvin’s parents trusted Baker to take Calvin and his brothers on holidays. Sometimes older boys from the school Baker worked at would also come on these trips too.

On the first trip Calvin attended, Baker ‘supplied us with some drink and tobacco … From that time onwards and with the ever-strengthening family bonds, Mr Baker instigated further meetings, excursions and trips over the following years’.

Baker bought a large caravan, and the bedding arrangements meant that whilst some boys had their own beds ‘one boy was then required to share the main bed with him, which was in a separate room within the caravan. Being the most junior boy, that became my place of sleep’.

Calvin recalls his ‘upbringing meant for great naivety and an unquestioning respect and trust for people with authority’. When Baker began sexually abusing him, usually in his caravan or in his accommodation at the school, it didn’t seem like there was an option to say no.

‘His approach was gentle and reassuring with behaviours that included being naked in my presence, sharing the same sleeping arrangements with bodily contact, tongue or French kissing, genital fondling, which he had me reciprocate, and penetration.’

Calvin was completely naive about sexual matters and puzzled by what Baker was doing to him. However, his experiences of abuse within his family, and his eagerness to please adults, meant that in some ways, ‘the attentions received by Mr Baker, along with the activities that he brought with him, were well-received’. Baker was single: ‘I used to think, “I wish he had a wife and that she could show me affection”’.

One of Calvin’s brothers later suicided. He has always wondered if this brother was also sexually abused by Baker, and believes that some of the boys from the school were.

For a long time Calvin felt unable to disclose the abuse for fear of being labelled homosexual. ‘The greatest insult that was inflicted on any boy at this time was the accusation of being a 'poofter', and following this period of abuse I felt an intense sense of dirtiness, guilt and shame.

‘This time with Mr Baker resulted in the questioning of my sexuality and my identifying as being a person who had committed a 'mortal' sin as was, and still is, specified or stated by the Catholic Church.’

Calvin did finally tell his wife some years after they married, and disclosed to his parents and siblings around five years ago. His mother and father recently ‘shared with me that at the time of our family's involvement with Mr Baker they had considered and discussed between themselves child abuse possibilities’. Despite this, they reckoned that Baker’s good standing at his school must mean he was ‘someone of proper and appropriate dealings with children’.

He has never reported Baker to police and thinks he would probably be dead by now, but has engaged lawyers to pursue a civil claim for compensation.

Calvin’s memories and distress about this abuse resurface in times of stress, including after he was shaken by a significant health scare in his 40s. ‘I remember going to a psychiatrist then and bringing up this factor of my experience of sexual abuse, and he dismissed it. Now I’m amazed ... I was a bit surprised that this person would dismiss that when I brought it up.’

He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and is currently undergoing counselling with a therapist he trusts and he can speak to about the abuse.

‘I’m just so thankful that I’ve come to a period in my life before I do die, that I can move beyond this. Because it’s been there constantly with me ... You’re given a life sentence. When you’re that age, in your formative years, and you experience this sort of treatment, it’s a life sentence. And victims shouldn’t get life sentences – I mean, it’s the perpetrators that should.’

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