Fletcher’s mother passed away in the late 1990s.
‘Two days before she died, she was in a nursing home and I was there with her, and she grabbed my hand and she begged forgiveness for not believing me. Poor thing.’
‘It was sort of reassuring in a way, having her do that.’
In the 1970s Fletcher attended a small, independent private school in Sydney. Even in his early teens he recalled being aware that the place had an overtly sexual atmosphere.
‘There was a culture of this weird sort of gayness – it wasn’t called that in those days. There was this acceptance amongst the boys that certain teachers did certain things … and that was just how it was.’
He remembered a school camping trip when a student, one of a group of boys known as ‘teachers’ pets’, disappeared with a teacher for two days. The student later told Fletcher that the teacher ‘was playing with me and having sex with me’.
Later that year at cadet camp, another teacher, Mr Telson, sexually abused a group of students. ‘He got us all to stand there and made us drop our pants and underpants, stand at attention. And he went along to each boy and played with each boy’s genitals.
‘And the boys that got excited … were told to report to his quarters.’
Fletcher said this kind of abuse was a regular occurrence and Telson ‘was famous for doing it’.
‘These same teachers were also flogging the crap out of us with the cane. So you were terrified.’
Around the same time Fletcher met a music tutor at the school. ‘He’d walk home with me some days. He was all very friendly.’
Soon after, when Fletcher went for a lesson, he was sexually abused by the tutor. ‘He just started touching me … he basically performed oral sex on me. It all happened so quick.’
Afterwards, Fletcher felt ‘fear, guilt, all sorts of terrible feelings. And I blame myself, because I enjoyed it’.
On another occasion, some of the ‘teachers’ pets’ took Fletcher to see the teacher who’d abused the students at the cadet camp. When they went in to the man’s private room, the boys pulled out a bag full of women’s underwear and started putting it on.
Fletcher said some of the boys put the underwear on over their clothes, others got undressed. ‘And they then told me that I had to put it on.’
‘I froze, I didn’t know what to do. And I was in such shock and so scared of being party to it, that I just said nothing.
‘And that was really the catalyst which made me go to my mother.’
Fletcher was still trying to deal with a ‘huge amount of guilt’ so he didn’t tell his mother anything about the sexual abuse by the music tutor, or exactly what Mr Telson had done.
‘I should’ve told her but I couldn’t. It was just so hard to say, and all I could say was he’s doing “stuff”. That was as much as I could come out with.’
When Fletcher’s mother confronted the school, she was told that Telson couldn’t have possibly done those things because he once ‘got a girl into trouble’.
Fletcher said he can still see his mother coming home and telling him that. ‘I was just dumbfounded. I just couldn’t believe that she would accept that.’
Fletcher himself never went to the police. ‘After telling my mother and having that response, and I was at that age.’
Years later an old classmate told Fletcher that there were teachers at the school regularly having sex with students.
Telson didn’t come near Fletcher again but the damage had been done. His schoolwork quickly went downhill. ‘I had no interest, didn’t want to go to anything. All I wanted to do was drop out and smoke pot after that. It just got worse and worse and worse. I had no respect for the system. It just all looked like a lie to me.’
After leaving school the abuse continued to impact on Fletcher.
‘It did a lot of things to me. It gave me a lot of confusion sexually, it gave me lack of confidence on a lot of levels, particularly with the opposite sex.
‘I explored the gay world. I experimented with drugs and all sorts of things. And I know I wouldn’t have engaged quite to the degree I did had those things not happened to me. And I just feel lucky I survived it, actually.’
Fletcher’s life did get better. He had good relationships and was successful in business, and now lives comfortably.
He’s never had any counselling. ‘Throughout my life there’s been this progression of opening up more to friends and people close to me, until into my 40s when basically I was saying what actually had happened.
‘And in that process you have realisations I suppose, and you deal with the issue with the maturity of age.
‘I don’t have feelings of revenge. I don’t feel the need for that at all.’
When Fletcher told friends he was coming to speak to the Royal Commission, he noticed a particular reaction. ‘Not all people, but a number of people. They don’t want to deal with it, they don’t want to hear it, their head turns. And it’s a shame, because we actually need to be, in our society, a lot more open about this, in order to deal with it so it doesn’t happen.
‘There’s still a lot of resistance in society about just talking about it. People do need to talk about it.’