Graeme thought of Edward Philpot as a ‘mate’. They smoked marijuana and drank together, and Philpot even gave him a surfboard. ‘I loved and still love music, so he had a good car stereo, and had a lot of music I liked.’
Philpot was Graeme’s soccer coach from Year 7 to Year 12, at his public high school in northern New South Wales. Graeme was good at soccer and Philpot befriended him and his family. Driving Graeme home from training, Philpot would ‘grab a case of beer, and come and drink with my mother and father’.
In the early 1980s, when Graeme was 15 or so, his parents agreed Philpot could take him away for a few days during the summer holidays. On that trip, Philpot got Graeme ‘very drunk and stoned’ while they listened to music, and sexually abused him.
Graeme passed out, and ‘I was awoken by him sucking my penis’. He passed out another time, ‘waking again to him forcing his penis into my anus’.
‘I was shocked, hurt, and my trust in people was broken. I was a naive country boy, my parents hated homosexuals. I had no idea really what male sex was. I thought of him as a “mate”, my coach.
‘I went into my shell. I had to go home to my parents feeling shamed, and that I had somehow let them down, and a feeling that somehow I was now a homosexual.’
Philpot coerced Graeme’s parents into letting them go away together at least two more times. Again he got Graeme ‘totally drunk’, and sexually abused him during these trips.
After the school break, Graeme returned to find Philpot was also teaching him. ‘The worst part of it was that I continued at school and had him as a teacher for English, and still my soccer coach.’
Graeme believes Philpot may have sexually abused other children. An old school friend recently disclosed that Philpot ‘tried it on me and I told him to piss off, and he never tried it again’. Philpot was also involved in a local swim club, with ample opportunity to befriend young boys.
The last time Graeme saw Philpot, in the late 1980s, ‘He was talking to me, and I just told him to piss off. And he was going, “you were always different to the other boys”, and I was like, “what does that mean?”’.
When Philpot was killed in an accident some years ago, Graeme had mixed feelings. ‘That prick ruined my life. There is not one day I don't curse him ... I cheered at least mentally when I heard he died, and then was sad because he died far too easily.’
In his 20s, Graeme kept drinking and smoking pot. ‘At the time, I didn’t have a great outlook for longevity ... I didn’t really plan for the future.’
Around a decade ago Graeme told his then wife about the abuse. ‘She was very supportive, she knew something was wrong.’ He started seeing a counsellor, who suggested he tell his family too.
Graeme disclosed the abuse to his parents over the phone. His mother said, ‘Oh, we thought something was going on with him’. This was hard for Graeme to hear, as his parents did not raise their concerns at the time, and ‘I was a child, I didn’t know’.
When he next saw them ‘we actually had this huge argument ... We were sort of estranged then for 10 years’. He later told another counsellor about his parents’ reaction.
She helped him realise that Philpot ‘was not just grooming me, he was grooming them. And that allowed him to manipulate them, to allow him to get me in certain situations. When she explained that, I felt a lot better ... They were victims as well’. He is glad he was able find some resolution before his father died.
Graeme also felt found it hard to engage further with sport and study after being abused. ‘I would have gone to university, I think, if I’d just had a bit more of an easier path in life. Maybe I’m a more rounded human being for it.’
He is sad he didn’t ever have kids, but ‘now I think I wouldn’t want to ever put any of that baggage onto them. I don’t think I’d perpetuate the crime or anything’. No longer with his wife, he lives by himself, out in the country.
Graeme has not reported the abuse to the school or police, or sought legal advice. Regular counselling helps him cope with the ongoing impacts of his abuse.
‘I’ve always been a listener I suppose ... People always telling me their stuff. Maybe I’ve always thought I should be a counsellor, that’s what I thought I wouldn’t mind doing in the future. Just to help other people in similar situations.
‘I’ve always tried to keep a positive mental outlook ... I’ve tried to deal with it as best I can, and not to dwell on it all the time. I always try to look at the positive aspects of my life. He’s just one person.’