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Ethan Michael's story

Ethan was abused by a teacher from his high school in regional Victoria in the mid-1980s. In a statement provided to the Royal Commission, he wrote, ‘Mr Finlay was a man in a position of authority, and had been given the honour to teach children, which he completely abused. No child at that age should be put into such a position where they are manipulated into such acts which they don’t understand’.

Finlay joined the sports club Ethan attended, and began inviting him to his home on weekends. He would also take Ethan on other outings. ‘He sexually abused me over a long period of time after gradually grooming me through showing me pornographic material and introducing me to alcohol and cigarettes.

‘I know that there was quite a bit of sexual activity between Mr Finlay and myself … up to 20 times or so … He told me that I should not tell anyone about what we had done. I remember that there was no way I was going to tell anyone because I would have been too embarrassed and scared of what would happen.’ The abuse Ethan experienced included oral sex and anal penetration, and continued for about three years.

‘I was a child who had hardly reached adolescence, a relatively immature kid for my age. I was very naive, and sex, or anything associated with it had never crossed my mind … Since then … my schooling dramatically suffered, my self-esteem became non-existent, I started becoming severely stressed and all parts of my life were now tainted. I hated myself and was very ashamed of what I was doing. At school I felt different to other kids and therefore felt like an outcast. The guilt, the secrecy, the lies, were completely unbearable’.

At 16 or 17, Ethan found himself ‘very lost, very alone and very misunderstood and most of all scared, of everything. I had a fear of being judged and I was starting to realise my innocence was lost. I felt dirty and severely taken advantage of …

‘Living with the emotional scars is completely incomprehensible and very difficult to explain. I have suffered with severe depression, severe anxiety and panic attacks, which have all led to complete emotional turmoil and breakdown. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder … which is a complete reaction to the sexual abuse I received.’

Ethan has also experienced ongoing nightmares, flashbacks, trust issues, sexual identity confusion and relationship problems.

‘For a long time I really blamed myself for it completely. I just thought, you know, I encouraged that to happen and you can’t help but think that … [but] I’ve turned myself around as far as that’s concerned, you know. I don’t any longer blame myself.’

Ethan has been receiving counselling through a Western Australian support group. ‘I guess the journey sort of started for me … a long time ago, but … to be able to talk about the impacts … I mean, I originally never really related my anxiety and my illnesses to what happened.’

Ethan’s counsellors suggested, as part of his therapy, he should report Finlay to the police. Afterwards, Ethan suffered a severe breakdown and was hospitalised for several weeks.

Although Finlay pleaded guilty, a plea bargain meant that he only faced one charge, and he was put on a 12-month good behaviour bond, which Ethan found very disappointing.

‘If I were to summarise “the impact” it would be on every single solitary facet of my being. I cannot think of one part of my life or myself, physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally, that has not been worse off due to Mr Finlay’s abuse. My feelings of guilt and shame are textbook really, and there is no compensation in the world that could replace the loss that this man has caused’.

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