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Franz's story

When Franz was young his family was very poor, and lived in caravan parks in Sydney’s south west. He witnessed his father being extremely violent towards his mother, and they eventually separated.

In the mid-1970s Franz was in first class at his local state primary school, and had a female teacher. He told the Commissioner that this teacher showed him pornographic images of other kids. Sometimes she used to kiss him, and he remembers the smell of cigarettes on her breath.

She also took ‘explicit’ photographs of him naked, and told him to keep this all a secret. ‘She said that this is really fun, and it’s really personal, it’s a big, big secret’, and that it could get him in trouble. He never told anyone about what the teacher was doing. ‘There was a lot of things that were said, that really convinced me never, ever to share this.’

This abuse impacted on the way Franz perceived himself, and how he framed appropriate sexual activity. ‘I actually felt that I was special, I really did. Because the teacher said that you’re a very, very special person, because of the things that we do together in secret. And I really was distorted by the thinking as a child. I was distorted thinking that it was okay to do that.’

When he was seven years old, Franz began sexually touching some of the children in his class, imitating what the teacher had done to him. ‘I did it to other children too, as a very young child ... I thought it was just a normal thing to do.’ When his mother discovered what he was doing, she explained to him it was wrong and he should stop.

‘I took photographs of myself and also of other children, as a young child ... The Polaroid photography was discovered by my mum. She found it and she told me that what I was doing was not the right thing ... So it was pointed out to me as a child, but I chose to ignore that.’

Franz became fascinated with photos of naked children. Although he was ‘very touchy and close to other children’, his teachers never commented on this. He knew he should avoid anyone finding out what he was doing to other kids.

‘Because I knew that to have a sexual encounter is a secret, it’s something that you do in secret, that’s what I was brought up to think at that time, that was said to me by that teacher. It was an in-built mechanism that she actually instilled into my brain.’

In his early teens, Franz was sexually abused by an older man, who he met when he was camping in a caravan park. This man took him to his home and showed him pornography, and molested him. ‘I ended up working with him ... And then he’d do sexual encounters to me.’

After Franz left school he started working, but his fascination with child pornography continued and with the advent of the internet started seeking this material online. He was also worried that photos the teacher had taken of him, or that he took of others, may have ended up on child pornography sites, and was always looking for them.

Eventually Franz was charged with possession and dissemination of this kind of material, and spoke to the Commissioner from jail after receiving a custodial sentence. He stated that his fascination with explicit pictures of children has ruined his life. ‘Coming to jail really smashed me to pieces ... Look with all these problems, look where I am. It’s not a good place, I don’t want to be here.’

Speaking to the Royal Commission was the first time Franz had disclosed the abuse by his teacher, although he had talked about the man in the caravan park during a psychiatric assessment for court. He has suffered anxiety and depression, and at times has felt suicidal. Although prison is a ‘safe place’ for him, he wishes he had greater access to psychiatric care there.

Realising he has harmed people in the past, he said he now wants to avoid this kind of thinking and behaviour so he does not re-offend. Doing a sex offenders program in jail was useful, as it helped him straighten out his thoughts. He now believes he is over his obsession with child pornography. ‘That addiction is gone. That was helped by psychiatrists ... I also went to the chapel regularly.’

Converting to Christianity has been a great comfort to Franz. It has given him a solid foundation in understanding what is right and what is wrong, and has helped him come to terms with his past transgressions.

‘I’ve had enough of how hard it is to live in this world when you don’t have a good framework. And I know that being a Christian provides that framework. That’s why I’m making that change, I’m standing my ground, and saying, “Enough’s enough”.

‘I can’t think like this anymore. It’s wrong what I did as a child. It was wrong what happened to me as a child. It’s wrong for me to act this child abuse material. And it’s wrong for me to think to have a sexual relationship with boys ... My thinking, my previous ways of thinking. It was all wrong. I’ve been misled.’

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