Douglas attended a Church of England college in south east Melbourne, which he remembers as a ‘conservative, traditional type school – run in sort of the vein you imagine when you see films, in relation to traditional English schools’.
Corporal punishment was still implemented, and ‘you referred to everybody as Sir’. In the early 1980s, when Douglas was 13, he was often in trouble for behaving badly on the school bus. The principal, Mike Dwyer (‘a mature, middle-aged man’), would discipline Douglas for these misdemeanours in his office.
The punishment would be corporal in nature, but twice Dwyer used the opportunity to sexually abuse Douglas. ‘You’d be standing in front of him. And he would basically come up, start putting his hands on you, or touching and caressing you ...
‘His hands would end up on your backside, and he would put his fingers in and caress your arse-crack ... I distinctly remember two occasions.’
Douglas became ‘disconnected from education, I sat in the back of the class, I no longer took any notes. I dreamed all day, and by forms 5 and 6, I wagged so many days I couldn’t keep track of which days I was actually at school’.
He also ‘had issues with finding my own sexuality, which may or may not have been based on that’, and difficulties ‘in relation to authority, and responding appropriately to authority’.
Douglas told the Royal Commission ‘I’m not a fan of single-sex, conservative private schooling’, and that he felt he came out of the college ‘socially undeveloped’.
As an adult, Douglass had significant difficulty with what he describes as an ‘obsession with the concepts of justice’, and gained a legal qualification. He is currently working in a reduced capacity, due to anxiety and depression caused by the breakdown of his marriage.
Douglas feels he had minimised this abuse for many years, before a therapist highlighted its potential significance in his life. He spoke to police about this matter recently. They told him there are already related investigations underway, but Dwyer is believed to be overseas.
As Douglas had listed his elderly parents’ address as his contact, the police visited the home about this matter – leaving him with little choice but to disclose the abuse to them. This helped them make sense of things that had happened at the time, such as Douglas stopping taking the school bus.
Douglas has worked hard to find healing from his abuse and other troubles in his life. He has seen a number of mental health workers, including a psychologist and psychiatrist.
‘I started to develop and empower myself. One of those things was, I started to exercise, so I felt that I was being more confident about myself physically. I did develop my first relationships, so therefore I felt more secure in my ability to love and be loved ... They were things that I made an effort to do, because I could see that I was challenged in that regard.’