Doris is the mother of Jaden, who was sexually abused by two teachers at his Perth primary school in the 1970s. Doris did not learn of her son’s experience until he was an adult, but even then her family’s ordeal was just beginning.
‘The consequences of what happened are sadly still being played out … I’m here today because I want the Commission to understand the incredibly malignant effect [abuse] can also have on the families of these children. It can destroy the very fabric within which a healthy family operates.’
Doris was forced to deal with her son’s school through two education department guidance counsellors who had helped place Jaden there. When he became unhappy and withdrawn Doris approached the women. She was told that Jaden was doing very well and that she was being over-protective.
Only recently Doris has learned that her son had approached the guidance counsellors after he was raped on a school camp. Jaden asked for help telling his mother what had happened.
‘Instead of being horrified and instantly putting the wheels in motion for this to be stopped, they told Jaden he could never tell me because if he did I would stop loving him … It broke my heart to know my son bore this alone all these years … It is to me the purest form of evil.’
Doris feels certain the guidance counsellors were friends of her son’s abusers. ‘With the help of these women my son could’ve had an enormous weight lifted from him. And the certainty that as a little boy none of this was his fault. But these women not only put my son through hell … they made it possible for [his teacher] to continue to ruin the lives of many more children for at least a decade.’
Instead Jaden carried his secret into adulthood. Doris moved him to a different school after only six months, but terrible damage had been done. The family began to fracture. Formerly close and happy brothers began to fight.
‘I believe Jaden acted out a lot of his pain on David, who terms himself an “incest victim”.’ There was certainly bullying, and possibly sexualised behaviour. ‘Their relationship as brothers never recovered.’ The estrangement became worse as the boys grew into adults.
‘Jaden did try to mend bridges with David, but David will not have anything to do with him. He will not see him, and their daughters have never met, although Jaden’s daughter constantly asks to see her cousin.’
Doris’s relationship with her sons has also been poisoned. ‘David appears to blame me for not knowing what was happening during the time he and Jaden spent at the primary school … He feels I must’ve known what was happening and in some way I am to blame for not protecting him, presumably against Jaden.’
David shut his mother out of his life for years on end, and even now allows only occasional access visits for her to see her granddaughter.
Doris sees Jaden and his family, but the relationship is prickly. ‘Jaden and I are close in many ways but he’s very intolerant in other ways and can be very cruel in the things he says to me.’ Jaden’s verbal attacks have made Doris physically ill at times.
She believes her family will never be fully healed.
The response of the Western Australian Department of Education to a complaint made by Doris has only added to her pain. After a positive reply to her reports of Jaden’s ordeal, the authorities conducted an investigation but told her the results would be kept confidential. Doris found this ‘absurd, unnecessary, hurtful and demeaning’.
She received a two paragraph letter from the department directing her to the Royal Commission and outlining the policies in place to fulfil the school system's duty of care towards children. These were the same policies which had clearly failed to protect Jaden.
‘Every member of my family has been deeply and permanently affected by this dreadful situation.’
Doris found the letter so distressing she cannot bring herself to read it again. ‘There was no suggestion of warmth, compassion or empathy for my position as a mother who has been devastated by the damage done to her much-loved son.’