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Eden's story

When Eden was sent to an Anglican boarding school in Queensland in the 1980s he witnessed ‘bullying, bastardisation and hazing’.

Bullied throughout his high school years because he was small and hit puberty late, Eden was also sexually abused by a senior student.

Additionally, he struggled socially as a ‘very naive’ child and later had difficulties with studies in senior school. Both problems were related to an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder.

One day in Grade 8 two older students were finishing up in a music room separate from the main school campus. Eden, who had just started learning an instrument, arrived for his first practice. One of the departing boys pulled down Eden’s pants and exposed him to the other boy, a practice called ‘dacking’ which is meant to be a prank.

‘Somebody might say that was nothing,’ Eden told the Royal Commissioner. ‘But I look at it and say for me that whole year was, in part, terrifying.’ After that, he no longer wanted to learn an instrument.

‘You are very vulnerable [in that situation] … If you were small you were a target.’

In a second incident two boarders prevented him from leaving a set of segregated showers.

‘I thought at the time I saw them I was in trouble.’ He knew whatever happened was retribution, blame apportioned by an older student for something he had not done.

One of the duo ‘picked me up’, Eden related, ‘and placed the head of his penis into my anus. And they were laughing’.

In documents sent to the Royal Commission, Eden said: ‘At the time this took place I was very scared and did not know what to do! The threat of reprisal was very real! Who in the staff was going to believe me let alone protect me!’

Back then there was no thought of going to the police, he said, as, even now, ‘they are not equipped for it’. He didn’t tell his parents ‘because I had no confidence or trust in them’.

Nor did he tell the school which he thought would ‘just brush over it’. If anyone discovered he had told ‘I was going to be beaten up’ by dormitory seniors who were put in charge of younger boys.

Eden has never considered taking action against the school, nor reported his abuse to police.

When he left school he qualified for university but lasted only two weeks when ‘my world fell apart’ with a psychotic episode, a hospitalisation and an eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Although he never abused alcohol or illegal drugs, Eden developed an addiction to pornography, both adult and child, as well as gaming. He also masturbated ‘a lot’ in an effort to help him sleep. He has lost a lot of time and money, working only fitfully over the past two decades. He finally kicked his addictions recently with the help of a psychologist.

‘I told no one of what took place out of fear and shame until 2008’, he said, describing an angry exchange with his father and then telling his psychiatrist who described it as ‘humiliation’.

‘But in the situation I was in it wasn’t embarrassing, it was terrifying.’

Brought up in a religious family, Eden has recently begun going to church again. He lives near his elderly parents, and is currently on a disability pension.

He said that psychiatry, psychology and reading have all helped him. Never sporty, and due to his early bullying, Eden said he used to ‘hide away’ in the library at school.

‘It was probably the safest place there … I got so good at hiding away that I found it very, very difficult to live in the real world.’

Among Eden’s recommendations to the Commission were that male boarders should have separate toilets and showers, with additionally fortified locks on doors.

Adult (rather than older student) supervision of younger boys in boarding situations was also important. Surveillance of older students was essential, and it would also help if victims could more easily talk to other young students without threat of reprisal.

Teachers should also be trained for better awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and not dismiss requests for help when students feel they are not coping. There should be better sex education for children other than the pornography that was ‘shoved’ in his face at boarding school by older students.

‘There is no cure for someone who’s raped’, Eden said. ‘You cannot un-rape someone so prevention is the cure.'

‘What you [Royal Commission officers] are doing then becomes vital. Anything else is just fairy floss.’

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