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Evan's story

Evan had a career in education, becoming a deputy principal for a while, so these days he knows how teachers should behave. But in the early 1970s, as a high school student at a Sydney Catholic boys’ school, he had no idea. When Ken Hooton, a lay teacher at the school in charge of army cadets, said that mutual masturbation was ‘just part of growing up’, he believed him.

‘There’s nothing wrong with it’, Hooton told him.

Looking back, Evan understands that he was groomed by Hooton, who used to drop by for visits with his family. ‘He was a fairly charismatic bloke’, Evan recalled.

Hooton plied Evan with alcohol and showed him pornography. He made Evan have oral sex with him, on a regular basis, for about three years. The abuse ended only when Evan left school.

Evan didn’t tell anyone about the abuse at the time. He was too ashamed to tell his friends. And there didn’t seem to be other places to turn to. ‘There’s avenues now. There wasn’t avenues back then.’

He told a counsellor about 15 years ago, in the context of trying to deal with a drinking problem. He told his wife then too. But it wasn’t till his father died just over a year ago that he decided to formally disclose what had happened to him. He had separated from his wife a few years before, and also left his job. The abuse had stopped being something he could deal with by being busy, and putting it out of his mind. It had become something he thought about every day.

‘My life was going down the gurgler a bit and I thought it’s time I dealt with this’, he said. ‘I wasn’t having much luck with relationships and things like that. So I thought – no. it’s time to get this out now.’

He began by reporting the abuse at the Catholic Education Office (CEO). Through them he was put in touch with a clinical psychologist, who he’s been seeing regularly ever since. ‘He’s trying to get me back on track so I can decide what I’m going to do with my life in terms of work and things like that.’ Evan has found the sessions, paid for by the CEO, very useful.

‘When I walk out of here, he’s going to be the first person I ring up’, he told the Commissioner.

The CEO also gave him information about other steps he could take, and he’s been following these up in the months since. He has been to the principal of his old school, to the order that ran it, and to the police – and found them all to be helpful and sympathetic.

Contact with police led to the discovery that Hooton was already facing charges for offences against other victims. Evan agreed to be a witness in the court case, which has had five adjournments so far. He believes Hooton, now in his 80s, will do everything he can to prevent the case coming to trial. ‘He’s going to try to delay it till he falls off the perch.’

Though giving his statement to police was ‘harrowing’ and he doesn’t look forward to giving evidence in court, Evan is positive about his dealings with the criminal justice system. Both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police in charge of the case keep him well informed about what’s happening, and the police officer he dealt with initially made the process as easy as possible. At Evan’s request, he came to Evan’s home to take his statement. ‘He just said “It doesn’t matter what you tell me, I’ve heard it all before”. He was an absolute professional.’

In the end, Evan said, speaking to the police was a relief. ‘Even here today, it’s cathartic, you know? Just to tell your story and somebody’s prepared to listen. Because I couldn’t tell my story. Here I am, 57 years old, and it’s finally come out.’

For now, further action is on hold. Once Evan knows the outcome of the court case, he’ll decide what to do next.

‘Number one is what I’m going to do for work.’ He can’t go back to teaching, he says. ‘It’s really stressful … and I just don’t want to explode. I can be a bit volatile sometimes. It’s all bluff and bluster most of it.’ He has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and fatigue. ‘I’m worn out. That’s why I can’t go back.’

If he is unable to work, he will need to seek compensation. ‘If I can’t go back to work I’ve got to have something.’

He told the Commissioner that he believes schools are safer than they once were, and teachers need to be careful to protect themselves from accusations. ‘You’ve got to look after teachers as well as look after kids.’ He recalled several instances where as a teacher he’d helped kids – driving one home at night, for instance – and afterwards thought he’d been stupid. ‘Just foolish. I’d never do it again.’

But while it depends greatly on the principal, he believes schools have ‘come a long way’, and in coeducational schools particularly a culture of being open and speaking up is encouraged.

‘What happened to me wouldn’t happen now, I don’t think. I can’t say it wouldn’t… [But] my experience of the school system is that they are safe places. … Generally I think they’re pretty safe places for kids now.’

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