Colin attended a local Catholic primary school in rural New South Wales in the mid-1980s. There was a convent at the back of the school, and Colin told the Commissioner that the nuns came into his classroom regularly, dressed ‘just in civilian clothes’.
Three or four times during his first year of school, ‘they come to our class and they pull us aside, one by one’. On each of these occasions they took the seven or eight boys in the class into a room and ‘help our pants reveal our penis. Check our penis. I don’t know what for. Can’t think … to this day’.
No explanation was given for the checks and Colin has no recollection of notes being sent home to the boys’ parents for permission to conduct them. ‘When a young man, I didn’t quite understand. Because it’s really … it was damaging. It was traumatising for me … they closed off the door, took us in there … they leant over and got our penis out and they’d look at it and then they’d pull it up and they take us back to the classroom.
‘I can’t figure it … to this day … I can still name to this day the young gentlemen in the class, you know. Some of them still live in that town. It was a horrible thing for any kid to experience.’
The first time Colin spoke about his abuse was when he was 17 and he had a group of friends staying the night. ‘I liked that at 17, to have a bit of a drink and a bit of a laugh, catching up with old friends, and I spoke about it then.’ He has since told some of his partners, but has never revealed it to his mother.
‘I can’t handle being in a relationship. I don’t like it anymore. I get triggered by certain things, even smells can trigger me. It can be someone yelling at me, or touching … just anything.’
He also has trouble getting changed in front of other men, and ‘now I’m in jail … with another man in me cell’ it creates problems for him. ‘I did not like what happened to me.’
Colin was also sexually abused at home, over a period of four years, starting shortly after his experience at school. He sees what happened to him at school as ‘a kind of grooming. So, if that’s happened to me, then when I got abused by this other gentleman, that’s, I sort of thought, “Oh, well this is okay”. So it’s opened a door. It’s opened a door. And even if a counsellor’s introduced to a school environment, to have these kids counselled after this, if this happened’.
Colin told the Commissioner that the impact on his schoolmates has been mixed. Some have gone on to become successful businessmen. At least one that he knows of ‘went on to become a druggie’. ‘I’ve tried to be the best man I could be, but sometimes you lose sight of your goals.’ Alcohol has been a contributing factor to Colin having served several prison sentences, but he is now determined to remain sober.
‘It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened to us. We were just kids.’ Colin told the Commissioner, ‘I feel happy to have shared this with you. I’m happy that I’ve shared it now’.