‘I think it was early high school … I used to notice that I would be getting extra attention from certain teachers … There was more than one instance where I guess, he would get a little touchy-feely in our change rooms and stuff. I guess as kids we used to giggle it off sometimes, you know, just call ‘em names and things afterwards …’
Cody was sexually abused by one of his PE teachers at his state high school in regional New South Wales in the 1980s.
‘Once or twice I was called aside to speak to him … It would always be something to do with class or how I was doing … He would be very hands-on, very touching and stuff like that … and I guess it was awkward and it was weird and I didn’t think much of it other than being uncomfortable …
‘It never got anything really physical, like getting naked or anything, but there was lots of very obvious groping and touching and stuff. I was also being abused by my stepfather at the time.’
Cody was brought up to believe that his stepfather was his real father, and only learned the truth when his stepfather was dying. He told the Commissioner, ‘My mother does have a strong memory of me being in the car saying, “I don’t like my dad. Can I have a different dad” and she asked me why and I said, “I just don’t like him”’.
It was only when Cody’s memories of his childhood sexual abuse began to surface when he sought counselling in his late 20s that he told his mother about the abuse he experienced at home and school.
Cody sought help when he began to have ‘violent … aggressive dreams … lots of really bad nightmares. For me, it was quite upsetting. I wasn’t sleeping very well. I just felt the need to talk about it … Talking to my GP and eventually a counsellor, it slowly … came into place’.
Cody believes that the sexual abuse has had an impact on his life. ‘It made me quite reserved and protective of myself. Anyone that sort of showed any sort of real form of, you know, power or so forth over me, I would be quite timid and quite passive towards. And I guess in personal relationships I tend to be quite on the defence, as if I feel as though I’m out of control or so forth.’
Once he had told his mother, she began to make sense of some of his behaviour as a young teenager. ‘I used to just lock myself away in my room a lot. I was very … happy in my own company … At school I was quite the same as well. I was quite shy and reserved and didn’t speak up much.’
Cody found it helped once his mother knew about the abuse. ‘We were able to talk together and just learn more and just talk about it and piece things together with each other and you know, I got over the whole thing … having each other to fall back on.’
Counselling has also been beneficial for Cody. ‘I don’t think I’d be where I am today mentally if it wasn’t for the counsellors and the help I had at the time.’ Although he feels better about the future, he does still, at times, ‘get very anxious with certain things, but at least now … I know how to deal a bit better than I would have before’.
Cody recalled, ‘It’s been a good 10 years since I’ve had all these memories and so forth, so I feel like I can cope with things now and having met other people … that have had similar experiences … It’s been sort of educational I guess …
‘But when I heard about [the Royal Commission] … Someone – I have a friend who’s a doctor – he actually brought this up that you guys have these meetings, and it was something that I could maybe look into, if there was anything I could do to help … It’s quite upsetting to think that you know, I’m not the only one that’s been through that.’