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Duffy's story

Duffy grew up in Brisbane with his parents and older brother. His family was not wealthy but his parents wanted to give him the best education they could, so in the late 1980s his mother worked as a cleaner in order to enrol him in a prestigious Anglican school.

When Duffy was 15 a close friend took his own life. ‘When he committed suicide I was quite impacted by it, questioning my faith … At the time I was searching for answers. Why did this happen? Why didn’t I know? What made it come to pass that my friend, who was such an easygoing, happy person, could take his own life?’

Duffy’s mother recognised her son was distraught about the death of his friend, so she spoke with his housemaster, who referred Duffy to the school counsellor, Mr Gorman.

Gorman was very popular among the students. He didn’t talk to them like the other teachers; he was more like a friend and confidante. ‘His introductory session was, “Say whatever you like, talk however you like”. He swore himself when we first met, I guess to make me feel comfortable with talking about anything with him.

‘He asked me to talk about sex basically. I don’t know if at any point we actually talked about the issue at hand for me. Banter really. And he talked about how boys would come to him and talk about sex.’

During Duffy’s second or third counselling session, Gorman remarked that he was obviously stressed. He procured a stethoscope, instructed Duffy to sit in the chair, removed his tie, undid his shirt buttons and played a relaxation tape while he applied pressure to Duffy’s arms and legs. ‘I stopped him at a point where I was uncomfortable. But I still went back to him.’

Duffy continued to make regular appointments for counselling up to twice a week, but Gorman’s techniques quickly escalated from unorthodox to assault.

‘He used to say, “Do you feel safe?” … He unbuckled my trousers, stating it’s all justified to make sure you’re relaxing, and to apply pressure to your abdomen or waist to make sure you’re relaxed.’

Gorman told Duffy that he needed to see what Duffy’s pain threshold was to help him release stress, so he placed ‘his thumb on the area between my scrotum and my anus, applied a significant amount of pressure while asking, "Do you feel safe?"

‘He instructed me to tighten the muscles in my leg, then my feet, then to point my toes. And while I was doing that, he pulled down the front of my pants and flicked my penis.’

At that point Duffy grabbed Gorman by the wrist and told him to stop. ‘His justification for that was that often when boys tense their legs their natural reaction is to get an erection. Well, I didn’t have an erection. And that was that … When it got to that point I was done.’ Duffy stopped seeing Gorman for counselling sessions after that incident.

During that time, Duffy’s substitute housemaster, Mr Rankin, was studying to be a counsellor. Duffy and his friend Carlo, who had also been counselled by Gorman, asked Rankin if Gorman was teaching him relaxation techniques. They then described what these techniques involved.

‘He said, “Oh no, no, I’m sure he doesn’t do things like that”. “Yeah, yeah he does”, and told him about it. He said, “Oh no, I think you’re mistaken”. I don’t know what happened after that. I don’t know if it was referred. The fact that we’d talked about it, he certainly didn’t say, “Oh hey, he’s touching kids”.’

Many years later, Duffy was living overseas when he heard there was a class action against the school for systemic sexual abuse perpetrated by Gorman.

‘My mother rang me up and said, “Have you heard about this class action?” She said to me, “Were you ever abused? I would die if you were ever abused”. I went “no”. I lied to my mum because she had spent a lot of time cleaning other people’s toilets to send me to a private school.’

Duffy didn't join the class action because he didn’t believe his experience was as traumatic as others who had come forward. However, he did report his abuse to the Anglican archdiocese and is currently seeking compensation. He ‘didn’t see the point’ in making a report to the police after Gorman killed himself not long after being arrested and charged.

Although Duffy has been able to move on with his life and enjoys his work in the public service, he has lost all faith in the Anglican Church, has trust issues and has had a series of broken relationships. He is unable to consider counselling for these issues because of the serious breach of trust committed by his school counsellor when he was 15.

‘My trust for the clergy, other teachers, definitely counsellors, I have none.’

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