Declan was born in the late 1960s and enjoyed a ‘pretty normal’ upbringing until he moved to a new primary school in Grade 4. After a year or so at the school, Declan and a few other boys were targeted by the principal, Mr Goddard.
‘He would organise different things for us to do. He would take us out of class and we’d do woodwork and – and we thought it was great. Special, you know.’
It was not long before Mr Goddard started calling the boys into his office one by one. There he stood them by his desk and rubbed their legs and put his arm around them.
‘It was pretty awkward. I kind of froze, kind of thing. So it was a pretty awkward time and didn’t really know what to say. And gradually I guess it started to occur more regularly and then he started to touch us and fondle and kiss us and put his arm around us and tell us he loved us. That gradually got worse and worse – that was about as far as it went, him touching us.’
The abuse continued to the end of Grade 5 and then right through Grade 6. Declan said he never reported the behaviour to his parents or teachers because he didn’t understand it at the time and didn’t know it was abuse. He said he and the other boys even joked about it sometimes, which was what ultimately brought the abuse to an end.
‘It was the second last day of school and we didn’t really want to go to the last day, and one of us just made a joke, “Oh, I don’t want to go to school and get my legs rubbed again”.’
One of the boys’ parents overhead the conversation. They contacted Declan’s parents.
‘My parents went up to the school and saw the deputy principal, and I had to go and make a statement down at the police station.’
As far as Declan knew, that was the end of the matter. Nothing more was said about the case and so he just did his best to get on with life.
It wasn’t easy. Back in primary school, Declan’s connection to Mr Goddard was an open secret and he was often teased about it. Many of the kids who knew him as one of ‘Goddard’s boys’ followed him to high school, bringing the story with them.
‘I copped a lot of abuse … It wasn’t all the time but it was in the most awkward situations. You know what kids are like, they bring stuff up when you don’t really want it to be brought up. So that was really hard.’
Declan said he mostly kept to himself in high school and had few friends. He did well academically but was so keen to get out of there that he left in year 10. He went on to get an apprenticeship which he enjoyed. A few years later he started a new job where some of the staff knew him from school, ‘and that brought it all back’.
Declan said he had a short temper and was, ‘pretty hard to get along with. I had no real reason, didn’t know why, that’s just what happened. And I guess I developed a porn thing, and that was kind of really sad. I’m over that now. Now I’ve got some help and I take medication now and settled down’.
Declan first decided to get help in the late 2000s. His son went into fifth grade and this triggered ‘a bad stage’. Declan discussed the abuse with his wife for the first time. After that he went to see a psychologist.
‘Then we decided that we wanted to do something about it, that something should happen. I had explained the whole story to my wife and we weren’t happy with the way things had turned out and I needed some sort of ending, something to be finalised.’
Declan and his wife contacted some lawyers who then managed to obtain records from the Department of Education. Declan was hurt and disturbed by what they found. It turned out that many of the staff clearly knew what was going on.
‘And they didn’t do anything about it. And the deputy principal didn’t do anything about it. I think they thought because we were children they wouldn’t have any evidence, and they were worried about their jobs maybe.’
Declan also spoke to police and discovered that Mr Goddard had been charged with indecent assault against one of the other boys and fined $100. The police didn’t explain to Declan why Goddard hadn’t been charged with any other offences. They didn’t offer to take Declan’s complaint any further. The feeling he got from the police was that it was ‘all too hard’.
Meanwhile, Declan’s lawyers continued negotiations with the Department of Education. Ultimately, Declan received an apology and a payment of $300,000 minus about $100,000 in legal fees.
Still, he feels like the matter hasn’t been resolved.
‘I would like it to be known that he didn’t just do it to this one person, he did it to the three of us and goodness knows how many other people.’