Chase’s parents divorced when he was a young boy. They decided to place him in a private primary school in Sydney as a boarder, where he remained until his mid-teens. In the school holidays he split his time between his mother and father.
The other kids in his year didn’t understand that he had a behavioural disorder and constantly teased and isolated him.
He had hopes that things would change when he started high school in the late 1990s, but instead they got worse. This school had many more students and he felt like an outcast. He was also bullied by some of the boys in his year, but didn’t tell anyone.
‘The children and the environment just did not work for me … I absolutely hated it.’
Chase shared a boarding house with around 50 other boys. The sleeping arrangements in the dormitories were quite open, and no one had their own room unless they were seniors.
The boarding master, Alex Kerridge, was in his mid-30s and very popular with the boys. Chase immediately warmed to him.
‘If a boarding master was going to pick anyone to molest, it’s likely to be the kid who’s a little bit different, who’s an outcast and doesn’t have many friends. They’re likely to be a fairly good target for that.’
One night Chase was woken by something touching his genitals. He rolled over and saw that Kerridge had his hand underneath the blankets. Not really sure what to do, Chase rolled over to get Kerridge to leave.
The second time it happened Chase spoke to Kerridge, asking him what was going on. Chase was never abused again after that.
‘I never confronted him and my actions after that were as if I had been completely unaware of what was going on.’
For the next two years Chase withdrew into himself. His peers teased him even more when he didn’t speak out in class, and he could not escape the bullying in the dormitory. Things got so overwhelming that he wanted to end his life.
In the early 2000s Chase left the school and moved in with his father and stepmother. He disclosed the abuse to his stepmother several months after he moved in. She was a little skeptical, and he didn’t mention it again for a few years.
He felt uncomfortable reporting Kerridge to the principal or any other teachers, and that no one would believe him as Kerridge was well regarded in the school.
‘I walked past the police station three or four times trying to make myself go in there. The reason I didn’t was because I felt there was no way I was going to be believed. This is a popular boarding master who appears to be personal friends with the house master … who the popular kids all seem to like. There’s no way anyone was going to believe the unpopular kid who hardly has any friends.’
Throughout his teens and adulthood Chase became hyper-alert towards men. A few years go Chase disclosed the abuse to his family and a close friend, all of whom were very supportive.
It’s only when he is asked to think about the abuse that Chase reflects on what happened. He has a good relationship with his counsellor and talks about the bullying he received at school.
Chase is interested in reporting Kerridge to the police and the school as he is concerned that Kerridge could still be teaching children. He would like to see the environment of schools become more positive, and he recommended that schools emphasise the need to report destructive behaviour.
‘If there was a culture [where] reporting was okay then both of those things [bullying and abuse] could have been caught quite a lot earlier. The general, overriding culture is to, “Suck it up and be strong. It’s all character building and everything’s okay”, but it really isn’t okay and it shouldn’t all be sucked up …
‘As a child you shouldn’t be expected to deal with this on your own. Perhaps it should be made a little clearer that behaviour like that can’t be tolerated. You shouldn’t have to actually feel scared to report things.’