Graham Michael's story

‘I thought I was a really free-thinking, wild, hippy hero … [but] I was a pot-smoking, pot-addicted alcoholic. I thought I was a legend … I realise now that I was a damaged little boy.’

Graham grew up in rural New South Wales but attended a boarding school in Sydney for his high school years. In the late 1960s, when he was 15 years old, he fell ill and his mother came to take him to a city doctor.

‘He told me he needed to take samples of all my fluids including semen … I tried to masturbate myself – I was very embarrassed – and I told him I couldn’t do it … He got really aggressive and violent and he held me down and took a rubber ring … and he put it on my penis and he masturbated me brutally until I ejaculated.

‘I had a black penis for about eight weeks. I had a deep indentation from the ring.’

When Graham left the surgery, he showed his mother his penis and said, ‘Look what he’s done to me’. His mother drove him back to school without any discussion. Graham showed the damage to his penis to one of the priests at the school who told him that he would ‘get over it’ and took no further action. Graham was belittled and bullied by the other boys because of his injury.

‘There was a lot of teasing. I had a fight with one boy when he made jokes about me being a paedophile. And I stopped playing sport and I stopped paying attention and I became a really shattered little boy.’

Graham became disobedient and rebellious and his behaviour led to him being expelled from school. This caused a rift between Graham and his father.

‘Then I totally lost it. I started stealing Valium pills from my grandmother, and alcohol – I just went off the rails … It really shattered me.’

Graham had to repeat his final year of school at the local high school, but he completed his Higher School Certificate, and just scraped into university. He studied hard at university and did well but found he couldn’t take the next step into a work and career. He began taking on menial work.

‘I’ve done every single lousy job in the world. I’ve been a factory hand, a farm hand, a dishwasher, a cleaner, a truck driver, a nude model … I’ve done every bad job in the world … I had no self-esteem.’

He travelled overseas for many years but eventually landed back in Australia. He decided to ‘reinvent’ himself, working hard in the community sector and becoming successful. Graham married and had a child but his low self-esteem continued to affect his relationships. The marriage broke down.

Graham changed careers and became a much-loved and respected educator teaching innovative programs.

‘Every single aspect of my life has been impacted by this half an hour in a bloody doctor’s surgery and most of it is because no one would believe me, no one would act on it … The reason I’m successful is I really have a strong sense of justice now.’

Graham’s anti-authoritarian attitude has meant that he has been a trailblazer and whistle-blower in his professional and personal life leading to better future treatment for others, including students. He has also reported sexual abuse whenever he has been alerted to it. He is concerned that schools can operate as a ‘closed shop’ and that, when they do, the culture prohibits reporting and the addressing of sexual abuse of children.

‘I’m a thorn in their side. I’m the guy that is on their case. I never back down … It’s a love-hate relationship between me and the authorities.’

Graham was able to see his abuser go to jail after a number of people came forward and charged him. Graham joined the case and the doctor was convicted of child sexual abuse offences and went to jail for some years.

Graham received victims of crime compensation but would have liked to see his abuser pay the money rather than the government. Graham said he doesn’t ‘have it in me’ to pursue the doctor through civil proceedings.

‘My initial sexual assault was the best thing that ever happened to me and it was the worst thing that ever happened to me … I have always fought for justice and it also made me be kind to kids. I remember when I was 15 promising to the sky out loud that I would never ever treat children the way I was treated.’

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