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Duncan Craig's story

In the early 2000s Duncan began high school at a Catholic boys’ college in Sydney’s west. He had a close circle of friends, and a good rapport with his teachers. Duncan knew his classmate Michael Gray from primary school, and when they first began at the college they hung out in the same friendship group.

For almost all of their time at the school, Michael sexually abused Duncan. This abuse would happen in secluded, unsupervised areas of the school grounds, as well as on excursions and camps, and included fondling, oral sex, and masturbation.

Michael constantly threatened that if Duncan did not comply with his wishes he would tell other people about what they had already done together. ‘It was a Catholic school, so they had a very strong stance against homosexuality.’ These threats caused Duncan a lot of stress as he thought he would have to leave the school if anyone found out.

One time Duncan attempted to tell a teacher he trusted about what Michael was doing, but only said that Michael was bullying him. The teacher told him that this was just what boys do, and no action was taken.

There was also an incident where they were found by another teacher in the school chapel, but neither of them was questioned about what they were doing there together.

Duncan noted that school staff should be better equipped to recognise and respond to signs of abuse. ‘For children it’s the equivalent of going to work, it’s the people you spend the most amount of time with. So sometimes teachers see things that parents don’t. And I think there probably were a lot of teachers that saw that something was wrong and just sat down and did nothing about it.’

This abuse ceased in the final year of school, when Duncan felt in a strong enough position to confront Michael and tell him to stop. Throughout this year Duncan suffered from depression, and a loss of focus and self-confidence, and this impacted heavily on his final results.

Duncan has not had any contact with Michael since they graduated. He does not want to make a police report as he is aware of the difficulties in testifying and obtaining a conviction. ‘I didn’t want it to become a matter of public record. I thought, I’d endured it for six years, I’m now not going to let it ruin my future ... It’s one that’s so hard to prove. I don’t want my name on court cases for forever linking me to it.’

For a while the abuse ‘made me question my sexuality ... I tried relationships with both genders ... and growing up in school, that was something I never thought I’d do’. He later settled down into a long-term relationship with a woman, who was supportive when he disclosed the abuse to her.

A few years ago Duncan was ‘not very happy at work, and I just wasn’t happy with life ... I did an online mental health test, and it triggered, well you should go see your doctor. So I went and talked to my GP about it’.

Duncan’s doctor wrote him a mental health care plan, and he is now seeing both a psychologist and psychiatrist. These therapists communicate with each other about his progress, and he has recently told both of them about the abuse. He has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

‘The psychologist gives me someone to talk to all the time, but the thing the psychologist can’t do is medical recommendations, whereas my psychiatrist can handle that. And the flip side, I don’t get to spend enough time with my psychiatrist, so I get to talk to my psychologist ...

‘My psychologist has always maintained it’s just about talking about it, and addressing issues that come up from that. My psychiatrist put me on medication, so I was on an antidepressant for a while. And I find that to be quite good at stabilising my mood.

‘And then we just look for things that trigger issues, and he’s always there to support me ... He encourages me to take up hobbies, and find things that I want to do, and is there to help me work through decisions, which is what I find really helpful. So he’s always said you know, my medication is my choice, whatever decisions I make is always up to me.’

Duncan recommended that there should be more comprehensive discussion of sexual abuse within the school environment, including in sex education classes – ‘we covered it mainly in Legal Studies in Year 11 and 12, under “What’s crime?”’.

‘It gets a lot of media coverage at the moment, which I think is really good, but in schools, I don’t know what’s actually spoken about ... Even when I go to uni now, people say, “Oh, it can’t happen to me”. And I sit there in that back of the class and go, “Yeah, no”.

‘And especially, there is that thing of, oh men can’t get sexually assaulted.’

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