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Colby's story

‘I didn’t know if it was right. I didn’t know if it was wrong. I didn’t know what to say, it’s like, it’s embarrassing.’

Miss Tupper would laugh when she touched Colby’s penis, like they were playing a game.

Tupper was a relief teacher at Colby’s Catholic primary school in Sydney’s inner suburbs, in the early 1980s. Sometimes she would take Colby out of class and lead him to another room where she would pull his pants down and fondle him.

This abuse would last around 10 minutes, and Colby remembers it happening at least three times. On one of these occasions Tupper was accompanied by a man, who touched Colby in the same way.

Colby was around five or six years old. He didn’t like what was happening to him, and felt embarrassed.

He can’t remember anything Tupper said to him. ‘You don’t know what’s going on. She could’ve been saying anything to me.’

Other boys were also taken out by Tupper, always one at a time, and Colby assumed she was abusing them too. He was confused, and thought that if it was happening to other kids, ‘it might be right’ after all.

One of Colby’s classmates, Eric, told him he was also being abused. Apart from talking to Eric about what Tupper did, Colby didn’t feel like he could disclose it to anyone else.

Colby became rebellious at school, particularly with female teachers, and this impacted on his education. Just being near teachers made him very nervous.

‘Every time I tried to sit down with them I couldn’t. Always get hot and sweat around them, always agitated ... Sometimes swore at them, when I shouldn’t of, for no reason.’

Even when teachers would ask him why he was getting into trouble, he could not tell them about Tupper, and there was nobody else in his life he could speak to. Although he went to a prestigious high school, he left barely able to read or write.

At one stage, Colby’s brother tried to sexually abuse him, which made him lose trust in people further. He started using drugs, and got into trouble with the law.

Colby disclosed the abuse to his partner in recent years, but didn’t go into all the details. She did not know how to react, and he thinks this might be because he was abused by a woman.

Colby has never reported the abuse, or sought any compensation. Concerned that Tupper may still be teaching, and an ongoing risk to other children, he requested that the Royal Commission help refer the matter to police.

Although Colby has been treated for mental health issues in the past, he has not had any counselling regarding the sexual abuse he experienced. These incidents are still on his mind a lot, and he is now considering speaking with a counsellor about them.

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