Fletcher grew up in the Northern Territory in the 1990s and attended the local primary school. ‘I was very energetic, very creative … helpful around the house. I had lots of friends … always playing with my friends and if I wasn’t, I was in my room, playing or drawing.’
Fletcher told the Commissioner that when he was six, there was a boy in his class who ‘was really weird, like he was clingy and he would follow me round the school … stand very close at the urinals, things like that’.
When Fletcher confronted the boy and told him ‘to back off a little bit … he got very aggressive and then shortly after that … the next day, or later that week, he actually made me do things to him in the classroom’.
Another student told the teacher what was happening and despite other staff advising her not to, she called the police. They spoke to both boys, and as far as Fletcher remembers, the other boy did not return to the school.
Fletcher recalled that the principal was not supportive after this incident. ‘I think he said it was disgusting … “A disgusting boy”, which was different from his usual “Stupid boy” comments.’
Early one morning, Fletcher was sent to the principal’s office, where he sat on ‘an old-looking metal chair, which I recall because it was not the usual fabric-covered chair’. The principal began talking about ‘responsibilities and expectations and privilege’, and Fletcher assumed that he was being reprimanded for some kind of misdemeanour.
When the principal took off his belt and told Fletcher that he was going to teach him a lesson, Fletcher thought he was going to be hit. Instead, the principal blindfolded him and forced him to perform oral sex.
Fletcher recalled the principal saying strange things like ‘You’re better than my wife’, and ‘the more you struggle, the worse it is going to get’.
He also made threats against Fletcher’s mother and warned him, ‘Don’t tell anyone. No one will believe you, and you will get into big trouble’.
After the sexual assault, the principal called another student to take Fletcher to the bathroom and wash his face. When he started crying, the other student comforted him, saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay’.
Fletcher believes that at least one other student was abused by the principal, because he ‘saw one of the teachers leading him out through the staff room and washing his face under the bubbler and what she was saying to him ... seemed too familiar’.
In a statement provided to the Royal Commission Fletcher wrote, ‘The abuse had a profound impact on my education and subsequent employment prospects … The teachers seemed to change their attitude to me after the abuse and treated me as a troublemaker … It was very difficult to concentrate and learn when I was always afraid of the abuse being repeated’.
Fletcher has never held a job for more than a year. ‘After a while I just get depressed and fatigued and it sort of starts to get too stressful for me and … my performance … starts to go down …
‘The one constant in my life is an ever-present feeling of fear that dates from the abuse. My sense of self was brutally fractured and I am only now … starting to put the pieces of myself together’.
Fletcher has made a number of attempts to take his own life, the first being when he was 10. He has had counselling on and off, and has been on a disability pension for some time. He finds that his current counsellor, from a community service organisation, has been very helpful.
Fletcher said that he would like to go to university, if he can get past ‘the negative connotation with education because of what had happened … I actually do like to learn, so I’d like to see myself making improvements in my personal life … get back into the swing of things’.
He wrote, ‘I have endured substantial mental health concerns and these continue to deeply affect me. My inner landscape is one of self-doubt, self-loathing, hopelessness, rejection and despair. When I look at my world, at myself, I see someone with no friends, no job, and no sense of my place in the world.’