‘You’re at an age where sexuality is not even in your mind and you’re so confused. Why is this happening? Why does this feel good? Why doesn’t this make me feel so bad inside? Why is this making me confused? Am I homosexual?’
Colton was a popular, confident and happy child at his state primary school. He loved learning and playing all different kinds of sport. In the early 2000s when he was nine, his parents enrolled him in a private boarding school for the remainder of his education.
He was scared about the move, he had heard how strict the teachers were. He arrived at the school not knowing anyone, which was very challenging for him. That’s when Mr Franklin stepped in.
Franklin took Colton under his wing. Colton remembers wanting to play a particular sport, but went with the sport that Franklin coached instead. In class, Colton was constantly praised for his good work and he was often called upon for demonstrations. The whole class noticed their relationship.
‘All the other kids would bully me for it because I was getting the special attention. My nickname was teacher’s pet.’
Isolation and bullying – that’s what Colton endured because of his connection with Franklin. He remembers crying constantly because of what the other students said to him. The only person at school who comforted him was Franklin, but that only made it worse. He hated going to school.
Colton was sexually abused by Franklin every single day. He remembers being called up to Franklin’s desk and he was masturbated in front of the class. ‘He just didn’t stop’, Colton said. On another occasion, Colton was alone in the classroom with Franklin when he was raped. He didn’t know what to do, there was no one to turn to.
‘You’re at an age where a teacher is [someone] you look up to. You don’t question them, you do what they say. That’s the rules.’
Colton couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, he was dragged to school. He just didn’t want to be there. He was depressed and had suicidal thoughts. He lost trust in his parents and his other teachers.
His mother had suspicions about what was happening. Colton remembers his mother asking him why he was spending so much time with Franklin and whether he had been touched or not. Colton seized up and denied that he had been abused. He wasn’t asked again.
After the school year had concluded, Colton never came into direct contact with Franklin again. He remembers Franklin often coming up to him in the playground but he made sure he was never alone with him. As Colton moved up in high school, he noticed other kids that had similar behavioural problems to him. He believed that Franklin was still abusing.
Colton had a need to protect himself, make a name and prove himself as he grew up. He had a tendency to get into fights and he enjoyed it. He often jumped in and defended the younger boys that were being teased. He didn’t want them to feel like he had.
He had difficulty forming relationships with women. Colton also found it hard to relate to others around him because he had been bullied so much. Small tasks like going to the bathroom triggered memories of the abuse. He relives the abuse most days.
‘Something like this doesn’t just happen and go away … It causes a lot of problems that people don’t see.’
It wasn’t until he was 19 that Colton first disclosed the abuse. He told his girlfriend at the time, which was hard. He then told his best friend, who encouraged him to tell his parents. He told his parents the next day.
‘I remember their faces when I told them, it’s like you know you’re doing the right thing by telling them. But you feel like you’re breaking their heart.’
Colton and his family went to the police and reported Franklin. He also gave the police names of other boys he believed were victims. They later confirmed with Colton that these boys were victims of Franklin, and charges were laid against him.
The trial was an awful, long process in which Colton had to relive the abuse every single day. His insecurities came back and he felt that the jury and others didn’t believe him. The trial nearly killed his mother and caused his sibling to have a mental breakdown. Colton had no words to describe how bad this time was.
Franklin was convicted, and appealed. This meant that Colton had to go through it all again. He felt intimidated in the courtroom and felt that the judge was harsh. After several years, Franklin was found guilty again. Colton then took civil action against his school and was awarded $375,000 in a settlement.
‘If he didn’t get convicted, I don’t know how I’d deal with it.’
He has much to be thankful for; his counsellor has been a rock in his life. He has a lot of love for his friends and family who have supported him the whole way. He is glad the school has been made accountable for Franklin’s actions.