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Claude Louis's story

‘In [the 1970s] my family virtually disintegrated. My mother had fled and … my father had commenced a new relationship, and we had moved house. In this house I was unwelcome.’ At the age of 14, Claude was sent to live with one of his father’s friends. ‘Even my family pets … had been put down.’

Claude attended a government high school in Adelaide. He told the Commissioner that ‘I was at a complete loss regarding my safety, security and identity. Through this instability, my schoolwork suffered [and] I came to the attention of … the school counsellor’.

Claude recalled that the counsellor, Mr Harper, asked him and a school friend to go swimming with him and ‘it was suggested that we go swimming without bathers’. He remembers that after this incident, there was some talk amongst the students that it was ‘strange. It was odd. It wasn’t right. There was more going on than met the eye’.

Claude told the Commissioner that ‘the next circumstance that I recall was that while riding [my bicycle] in the street [he] stopped me and suggested that I go home with him’.

When they arrived at Mr Harper’s house, he ‘made me eat food and drink alcohol. I suspect the food or alcoholic drink contained a stupefying drug. He was aware that I was under his authority as a student from a recently broken home, in need of counselling’.

Mr Harper showed Claude pornography, including ‘child pornography involving men engaging in sexualised behaviour with underage boys’. He then sexually assaulted Claude.

Claude doesn’t recall how he got away from Mr Harper’s house. He told the Commissioner, ‘I strongly remember I felt disgusting, very scared and dirty … I can still see, smell and feel the sensations of that act, and the resulting disgust and fear. I feel today the sense of humiliation, degradation and complete destruction of trust and safety. I remember having a sense of absolute isolation not knowing where to go that evening’.

Claude did not tell anyone what had happened, but continued to feel ‘overwhelming disgust, fear, and anxiety, shame and guilt and depression, which I supressed as best I could from that time onward … I’ve always left the past behind as it were. Keeping this hidden, keeping this secret, not dealing with it. There’s always been a block to … full and normal, natural communication with people’.

After years of feeling this way, Claude has recently ‘changed the way I deal with this matter’. He stated that he is ‘engaged in intensive psychological treatment to find my own voice, sense of self and empowerment, and I now want this matter to be appropriately dealt with by the Royal Commission, as a matter of sexual assault and abuse that was perpetrated against me by an adult person, a staff member of a public school in a position of authority at a time when I was a vulnerable, naïve and powerless child’.

In the early 2000s Claude received a letter of apology from Mr Harper, after he wrote to him asking for one. But he told the Commissioner that ‘although I could temper my hatred towards the man … it did not give me any closure’.

After talking to his psychologist, Claude has come to realise that his trust and relationship issues have been about ‘avoidance. Attempting to avoid, or control pain, specifically … and I’ve realised very recently that those are unobtainable goals … The pain needs to be experienced in order to be able to manage it’.

Claude told the Commissioner that part of his reason for coming to the Royal Commission was to provide ‘more information for the Royal Commission to work with. I don’t know if this person, this perpetrator, has committed these assaults with others … you can only assume he has … This person may still be involved in assaults or with child pornography and of course, if that is the case, then whatever I can provide and do, I’m wanting to assist in that matter’.

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