Drew was in Year 6 when Mr Sumner started taking a special interest in him. It started off with seemingly harmless things, like when Mr Sumner arranged for Drew to have the best part in the school play, and when he gave Drew some of the prizes that were left over from the school fete, telling him it was ‘a bit of a secret’.
Mr Sumner was the principal of the public primary school that Drew attended in the mid-1980s. By the time Drew was in Year 6, Sumner already had a reputation amongst the kids for being ‘touchy-feely’.
‘It was kind of public displays of affection’, Drew said, ‘but I guess it was that kind of thing that whenever he thought he could get away with more, he’d get away with more’.
Mr Sumner contrived reasons to get Drew alone with him in his office. Once there, he would grab Drew’s crotch. Drew didn’t understand what was going on but he always felt uncomfortable and would squirm and pull away.
Then one time, when Drew was in a room full of children, Mr Sumner waited until the others were distracted and grabbed Drew’s crotch. This time Drew did not pull away. He was terrified that if he moved it would cause a scene, and then the other kids would know what Sumner was doing to him.
The next time Mr Sumner got hold of Drew alone in the office he mentioned the incident, observing that Drew hadn’t pulled away that time and suggesting that maybe he enjoyed it.
The abuse continued, with Mr Sumner coercing Drew to take off his clothes. Sumner would then sit Drew on his lap and fondle his penis. During these sessions he often said things to Drew that were confusing and contradictory. On the one hand, he maintained that his behaviour was normal, once even taking a book from his shelf and showing Drew a passage about how boys and girls should be encouraged to touch each other and experiment with sex. On the other hand, he repeatedly told Drew to keep the abuse a secret.
Drew was 11 years old and didn’t know what to think. It was only after he left the primary school and moved on to high school, out of Sumner’s reach, that he managed to step back and think clearly. One day he returned to the primary school to pick up his little sister.
‘She wasn’t finished her class yet. He was there and he’d say, “Come into my office” and it was that kind of thing again. But by that stage I had sort of broken away from it so I’d had enough of the experience to think, “This is definitely not right”. So I was able to step away from that.’
From then on, Drew refused to go back to the primary school and he escaped Mr Sumner for good.
Drew kept the abuse to himself until he was about 20 years old. Then over the course of about 18 months he told some friends and his sister, and she went on to tell his mum. They were all very supportive.
Drew’s sister went on to make a complaint to police on his behalf. Police told her that the case wasn’t worth pursuing. It would come down to Sumner’s word against Drew’s, and because Sumner was such an upstanding member of the community, he’d probably win.
This wasn’t a big disappointment for Drew. He wasn’t interested in going to police anyway.
‘I’m not really interested in publicly going over what happened to me. I’m more interested in finding out why it happened and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think that’s the most constructive thing that I can do.’
Drew believes that in his younger years the impact of the abuse ate away at his confidence and made it hard for him to trust people. But it didn’t cripple him. In time he pushed beyond his troubles to build a strong career and a small circle of close relationships.
Drew was happy for the Royal Commission to share his story, but he does not want to be pigeonholed as a victim of child sexual abuse.
In a small town, he said, ‘you become defined by that. It’s like, “Oh, Drew, he’s the one that that happened to”, rather than, “Drew, he’s gone off to do this”. I’d rather be known for what I do now, not for what happened to me when I was 11.’