Graham’s family migrated from England in the early 1960s and after a short time in regional New South Wales, they moved to Victoria, where the job prospects for his father were better.
As a migrant, Graham was subjected to bullying from the Australian boys in his school, and after he was sexually abused by the school caretaker, the bullying became worse.
The caretaker came into Graham’s class one day and asked the teacher for ‘a tall boy to help me change a light globe’. Graham went to the boiler room with the man and climbed up the ladder, to change the globe.
‘On the way down, he’s grabbed me and started fondling and carrying on, and I looked down and he’s half naked. What a shock. He’s got his penis in his hand and all that sort of stuff. He said things like, “Oh, you’re going to love this … You’ll enjoy this”. I’m going, “No, I effing won’t”.’ As a small child back in England, ‘we were taught these people existed …
‘Somehow, he got his finger into my anus. He wanted me to give him a head job, they call it, and … he’s getting me in a headlock and he’s holding me and he’s really strong, and I’m stamping on his feet … trying to do some damage, some pain … He started to get very agitated and annoyed … “Don’t fucking tell anyone, you fucking cunt, or I’ll kill you”.’
Graham eventually managed to escape from the boiler room. ‘All my shirt was everywhere, and my tie was over here … I just stood there for a few minutes, composing meself. I was shaking like crazy … I finally got the courage to go back to the class … [The teacher] could see me, and I just called her out. No way I wanted to say anything in front of the others.’
After Graham told the teacher what happened, she took him to the headmaster’s office and ‘before you know it, me mother was standing next to me … Then a couple of teachers turned up … The headmaster told the teachers to go and get him … So the next thing we’re all standing there in a group and my mother went for him … She was going to scratch his eyes out …
‘In the end, I saw him marched off by the police … It didn’t take long for just about every kid in the school to know about it … a few of the bullies started on me over it, with direct reference … One student said, “You’ve spoiled our pocket money” sort of thing …’ Graham found out later that boys were being paid by the caretaker in return for sexual acts.
When the headmaster spoke to Graham after the assault, he told him to, ‘try and forget what has just happened and try to get on with your life and don’t let it interfere with your schooling’.
The bullying at the school became so bad that Graham could no longer eat his lunch in the playground. The bullying ‘was very physical. There was a lot of poking, face slapping, neck slapping, kicking, stomps on my feet, things were said …’ Graham lived quite close to the school, so he started going home for lunch.
After the sexual abuse, Graham ‘became quite rebellious. I think I had a personality change. I was very arrogant and abusive to a few teachers that were a bit strange. Not all teachers are good … but the good teachers, I was all right with’.
At 13, Graham had never heard the words, ‘depression or post-traumatic stress, but I am certain I was suffering from them. I had extreme nightmares … I was moody, withdrawn, I wagged school, and started to drink as soon as possible … I didn’t like anyone touching me … I was incredibly angry …
‘I noticed extreme nervousness and embarrassment around girls … I would smoke dope or drink till I passed out to avoid sex. I had to fight my own mind about thoughts of molesting children myself.’
As an adult, Graham has had problems with intimacy, relationships, sexual dysfunction, anger, self-worth, lack of confidence, social isolation, substance abuse, anxiety and nightmares, and he has ‘contemplated suicide for around six to seven years’.
In recent years, Graham met a man who had been a student at his school. This man told him that the caretaker had never been charged by the police, and that he had been sacked from the school for ‘stealing a box of pencils’. Graham couldn’t believe that the headmaster had covered up the incident.
Graham left school and began an apprenticeship when he turned 16. During his four-year apprenticeship he was subjected to continual abuse, especially when he fought off the men who were trying to mark his genitals with blue dye, as part of a traditional apprenticeship ‘induction’. ‘I fought the hardest … They never got any marking blue on me. I was threatening, screaming …’
Although Graham complained to the foreman and told him he didn’t want to work with the instigators of the bullying, he never complained to the manager. ‘You know what it was like in the old days. You weren’t supposed to be a dobber and all that …’
In his mid-20s, Graham told a psychiatrist, ‘I don’t want to bring any children into this cruel world’. This caused friction with his parents, who wanted him to find a wife, have children and settle down. In the end, the constant nagging about it from his mother led to him not speaking to her for over 20 years.
Although he was married and has stepchildren, his wife died, and he now prefers to live ‘like a recluse … I just like to be quiet and not be around anybody else … do a bit of fishing …’