Crispin has returned several times as a visitor to the boarding school he attended in the early 1970s. On one visit as an adult, he was shown around and taken into the kitchen. ‘[It] had this awful smell – it smelled of child abuse.’
Physical and sexual abuse looms large in his recollections of his time there. ‘My mother said I was going and she told me it’s going be a real tough school and I’m not going to like it.’
Crispin first arrived at the government school, which catered for children with mild intellectual disabilities, when he was around nine years of age. His cousin drove him there, and on the way Crispin told him ‘I’m going to hate this school, I’m really going to hate this school … And I did’.
Crispin still has a photo that his cousin took, that very first day. It’s of Crispin, holding his small brown suitcase, standing beside the school swimming pool. ‘That pool … was nothing but sexual abuse in the water.’
There was nowhere in his new environment that Crispin felt safe. In the showers, he was often touched by older boys. ‘They would touch and rub my penis and testicles. They would sometimes touch their own penis as they touched me’, he said in a written statement.
In the dormitory older boys would make him take his clothes off. He remembers ‘a lot of touching in class. The boys were touching the school girls’ private bits, which wasn’t right’.
Crispin didn’t report what the boys were doing. ‘I could not tell anyone.’ He was also sexually abused by a male nurse who worked at the school.
‘I was sitting in the dormitory, and he phoned the dormitory up and he said to the female nurse “Can you send Crispin up”. So I went up to his clinic, and he told me to shut the … door and sit down and pull my pyjama pants down and masturbate in front of him. And after he done that he told me not to tell anyone but he sexually abused me. In his clinic. Yeah. I was terrified of him.’
Sometime later the nurse summoned Crispin to the clinic again, and told him to take off his clothes. This time, though, Crispin refused. He told the nurse he didn’t want to be touched by him again. ‘After I said this, I ran out of the clinic’, he said in his statement.
The school was very strict. ‘It really affected me because the staff were so nasty there. They weren’t nice staff and they weren’t caring staff. Just so nasty.’
The classroom teachers would often hit the students, including Crispin, with a cane or a belt. One of them seemed to take a particular dislike to him: Mrs Simpson was ‘nasty and cruel’ to him on many occasions, he said, and the ferocity of her punishments would leave marks and bruises all over his body.
One day when Crispin was about 12, Mrs Simpson caught him writing a letter in class. At the end of the school day, she took him outside to the school workshop, which was used by boys learning woodwork. She made him undress, tied him to a chair and left him there, locking the door on her way out.
Crispin is not clear how long he was in the workshop for. It felt like weeks. He was hungry, and deprived of his medication. He was very scared. Eventually Mrs Simpson released him. He is not sure what exactly happened next. ‘However, I remember that the school principal drove me in his car to the hospital.’
As far as Crispin knows, no action was ever taken against Mrs Simpson. He believes she would be very old by now, and most likely is deceased. He is unable to remember the name of the nurse who abused him.
In the 40 or so years since being at the school, Crispin had kept his experiences there a secret. But he had made the decision to report his abusers to police. For the first time, he had spoken about what happened, to a legal aid firm supporting him in his complaint. Speaking to the Royal Commission was another significant step. He has also decided to seek counselling.
Crispin is unemployed, and lives on a disability pension. He said he had come to the Royal Commission in the hope it would help prevent what had happened to him from happening to others.
‘I still think about it’, he said.