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Frederick Alex's story

‘I remember being a bright child who talked a lot. I remember playing happily in my room and at the end of the hallway. I remember a happy childhood. However, this all changed when I started going to primary school.’

In the early 1980s, Frederick attended a state primary school in Queensland. Mr Grant, the sports teacher, often humiliated Frederick in front of the other children. He also made Frederick help him put the equipment away after class. ‘He would close the door and force me to suck his penis. This happened often. He would tell me not to tell anyone else.’

During lunch breaks, Frederick sat by himself and didn’t talk to anyone.

‘People just thought I was shy, but the reason for this was because of the abuse.’ Frederick also ‘started wetting the bed and had lots of trouble sleeping’.

The abuse started in Grade 1, and continued until Mr Grant left the school when Frederick was starting Grade 4.

After school, Frederick attended swimming training. The coach, Mr Peters, made him wait in a small private room in the male changing room.

‘I used to wait naked in that room for him to come. I’d sometimes ask him if I could put my clothes on, but he’d say “No”, so I’d always wait naked. The door was locked. He’d come to the room and knock with a special knock. I felt lonely and trapped in that room. Mr Peters sexually assaulted me [there].’

Mr Peters also sexually abused Frederick at swimming carnivals, and if there wasn’t a changing room available, ‘I’d be forced to have sex with him in the toilet cubicle. I always had trouble looking him in the eyes as I felt scared of him’.

After the sexual abuse, ‘he’d tell me not to tell anyone else and that this was a special secret between him and me’. The sexual abuse continued throughout primary school, and once he began high school, Frederick repressed the memory of it until he was 17.

Frederick told the Commissioner, ‘Even though I could not recall what had happened … the childhood sexual abuse had affected me. I could not look people in the eye. I used to mumble and put my hands over my mouth … when I talked to other people’. Having to give presentations in front of his class made Frederick extremely anxious, and he would cry.

In high school, Frederick entered a special program with other students, designed to boost self-confidence. It didn’t really work for him. ‘I tried to study, but could not do so properly. I realised that I have very few skills about how to learn. I’m sure this is because school was an unsafe environment for me. I only did at school what I had to do to survive.’

Years later, when Frederick tried to enrol in a university course, he realised that he had never learned the skills required to complete essays and assignments, so he couldn’t continue. ‘I couldn’t study properly in most of my subjects, nor be successful at most other things in general in my life. It was like I was a broken, damaged person or something.’

When the memories of his abuse returned following an incident when he was 17, Frederick went to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist and was placed on medication. He also attended a men’s group for five years. ‘I thought that it was part of growing up, being abused. But I later found out that this was not the case.’

In his late teens, Frederick told his father about the sexual abuse. He then moved away, because he ‘couldn’t understand why my father would want me or even love me because of the abuse. I moved away … because I thought my father didn’t want me’.

If somebody wanted to be Frederick’s friend, he was ‘always suspicious of why and couldn’t understand why that person even wanted to get to know me as I didn’t really like myself, and thought that if anyone wanted to know me, then they must want something from me’.

Frederick told the Commissioner, ‘I have lived with this trauma for most of my life. Although I have found ways now to deal with it better, I still can never forget what happened to me as a child. I often have nightmares about it’.

Frederick also suffered confusion with his sexual orientation and ‘feel[s] that it was kind of chosen for me by my abusers’. Having sex causes flashbacks of being abused, and this has been very stressful for him.

‘Sometimes I get a bit down and look at my life and what I’ve achieved … it makes me sad that I have a crappy low-paid job … I often wonder what I could already have achieved in a professional job, if I hadn’t been sexually abused as a child.’

In a submission to the Royal Commission Frederick wrote, ‘I am glad that the Royal
Commission is recognising the huge impact which child sexual abuse has on the lives of people like me. It has taken me many years and a lot of courage to finally speak out and seek compensation for my suffering’.

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