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Glenn Thomas's story

Glenn grew up in ‘what I believe to be a role model family, I had a very fortunate upbringing’, and was a confident child who related well to both adults and his peers. As a teenager in the 1990s he attended an Anglican college, where he was sexually abused by teacher James Barratt on ‘a week by week basis for 18 months’.

The teacher had groomed him very effectively and ‘I was very accepting, and a very mutual participant, in a lot of what happened to me back in Year 9 to 10’. Although ‘I knew what happened to me from the very first minute was not right, not socially acceptable, and wrong on all levels’, he was not able to tell Barratt to stop or to disclose the abuse.

‘I knew all that stuff ... And I still couldn’t put my hand up and say “help”. And I wasn’t six, I wasn’t three, I wasn’t nine ... I was 15 and 16 and I would have thought at that age you’d have the strength within ... You’re still to some degree maturing, but you’re not an infant, and you certainly have power whether that be physical and mental at that age to say “stop” and I still couldn’t do that, because of the act of that grooming. And that was very frustrating.’

Other staff recognised Glenn’s close relationship with the teacher, as did his peers (who bullied him about it), although he continually denied that anything was going on.

‘I do get angry now ... that it wasn’t more recognised by others that must have known, not what was happening – I give everyone the benefit of the doubt because I was lying to my parents, I was lying to my mates, my siblings, that nothing was happening, I was questioned many, many times ... and I would deny it every single time – but as an adult now ... You know your gut feel, that this isn’t right.’

He is frustrated that the school did not intervene. ‘It was just too obvious, when I look back now.’ Some of the teachers from that time have spoken to him since and said ‘yeah, it never felt right’.

While not wanting to blame anyone else, he hopes that processes now ‘make sure people feel comfortable’ in naming and reporting suspected abuse. ‘I still think had I’ve walked into [a] police station or the school headmaster’s office and said this was happening, it would have been dismissed.’

Glenn’s parents later told him they had been concerned and had confronted Barratt, telling him to keep away from Glenn. The teacher had agreed to this, but then told Glenn in private that they would have to be more careful and secretive about seeing each other. His mother had also seen a therapist at this time, and discussed her concerns about letters she had found between Glenn and the teacher.

The sexual abuse ceased when Barratt was moved to a different area of the school, ‘which created a physical block’, although Glenn had wanted an ‘out’ for some time. ‘I knew it was wrong, I didn’t want it anymore, I wasn’t comfortable.’ Barratt still maintained contact with Glenn for most of his adult life, and Glenn thinks this was probably an attempt to ensure he kept quiet about what had happened.

Glenn did not speak about the abuse until recently. His disclosure was partly prompted by his own children approaching high school age, and also knowing that Barratt was still at the school. ‘I just couldn’t last any longer knowing that he was still a teacher.’

First, Glenn told his wife, then went to a sexual assault counselling service and made a police report. He explained to the Commissioner that he was not ‘seeking revenge’ when he reported Barratt, and that he felt sorry for Barratt’s family who were heavily impacted by his decision to report him to police.

Glenn participated in a pretext call, in which Barratt made admissions about the abuse. Subsequently the teacher was charged with numerous offences against Glenn, pleaded guilty, and was given a custodial sentence.

The police involved in the matter were very supportive, and Glenn felt his experience with the criminal justice system was ‘first class’ and relatively expedient. He acknowledges that Barratt’s guilty plea (meaning Glenn did not have to be cross-examined), and having a realistic expectation of what sentence was likely, made this process less traumatic than it might otherwise have been.

He was disappointed that colleagues of Barratt’s from the school attended the court early on to support him, though ‘I’m glad they got to hear [about the abuse], in graphic detail’. At the sentencing, Barratt’s wife was his only support.

Glenn noted however that secondary victims were not given a great deal of support during the process and this could be improved, as the families of victims are also impacted by the abuse and reporting. The school has done little by way of outreach to Glenn and his family, although it did offer some counselling.

As yet Glenn has not sought victims of crime compensation, but knows he is eligible to do so. He is also considering civil action against the school. Though he is not interested in money as much as an apology, he would like the school fees his parents paid to be refunded.

Since deciding to report Barratt, Glenn has suffered from anxiety and depression (being prescribed medication for this). ‘I still have my ups and downs ... I have just dealt with them on a day by day basis, and tried not to make any assumption or prediction on where things go. Just deal with what you can deal with at the time.’

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