‘There are a lot of people who are affected in this way and go completely opposite. There’s drug addictions, there’s not living in a home. I’ve done reasonably well commercially and with business and that sort of thing, but the impact in so many other areas of my life has been just debilitating.
'So it's really important for me that people see that it’s business leaders in the country as well as people that have struggled with other issues and challenges.’
Graydon was the victim of sexual abuse by his counsellor at the private school he attended in the 1980s.
Graydon’s father died when he was young, an event which he said blew his family apart. The school counsellor, Richard Stent, used the situation to take advantage of Graydon when he was at his most vulnerable. He advised Graydon’s mother to send him for counselling sessions and he sexually abused him at the very first session.
Graydon saw Stent at least twice a week until he finished school, and he was abused every time. Stent implied it was a normal part of treatment, and made it clear that Graydon should keep everything that happened in the room confidential.
Over the years, Stent became a father figure to Graydon. He taught him how to drive and became an integral part of his life. Although Graydon wasn’t happy about the abuse, he endured it in return for the emotional support he felt he was getting.
‘My thought back then was that I was very special to Richard Stent, that it was a genuine love and caring for me. These were small trade-offs to get all of that, and that there were only very few people with that type of relationship, and that was my belief.’
Graydon started to struggle at school, falling from the top of the class to the bottom. However, nobody questioned it, instead assuming it was because of his father’s death. He grew increasingly angry and at one point he threatened his sister with a knife, which resulted in him being put in foster care for a while. He was also later hospitalised for a few months for mental health issues. One of his very few regular visitors at the hospital was Richard Stent.
Graydon returned to the school, and went back to regular counselling sessions with Stent, until halfway through Grade 12 when he just stopped wanting to go and dropped out. However, he continued to see Stent into adulthood. The abuse only stopped because Stent died when Graydon was in his mid 20s. Graydon felt the loss deeply as if he had lost his father again.
In the meantime, Graydon had managed to set himself on a successful career path. He married, split up, married again and had children, but he had also developed destructive addictions to gambling and sex. He said his experience with Stent had taught him that sex was an escape. As his career took off, his relationships broke down.
‘Where my success came was from having my own company and being able to be almost dictatorial and do what I wanted, when I wanted … I travelled a lot and it gave me the perfect opportunity to act out sexually and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.’
Over the years, more than 100 former students of Graydon’s old school came forward about abuse they had experienced at the hands of Stent. In the early 2000s, Graydon’s mother told him some ex-students were receiving payouts from the school and she asked him directly if anything had happened to him. He denied it to his mother, but he investigated further through news reports and was ‘horribly upset’ to find out how many boys Stent had abused. He disclosed to his then wife and sought the help of a psychologist.
That was when Graydon started to look at his experience with different eyes and realised he had been the victim of sexual abuse. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and he started to get help for his gambling and sex addictions.
He approached the school about Stent but, without yet fully understanding the impact of the abuse and the ongoing need for counselling, he asked for and accepted a small amount in compensation. Graydon now feels the school took advantage of him again. He also feels a great disappointment that Stent died before having to face any of his victims, and he struggles with the guilt of not disclosing earlier.
For Graydon, the process of coming to terms with his experience is complicated and ongoing. He said because of his outwardly successful life, it’s difficult for others to see the damage caused. He continues to see his psychologist regularly.
‘Even now I struggle with this diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder … I am kind of getting to that stage now where, yeah, I can accept that there was criminal activity. And clearly, logically, I can see the grieving process and that continuing.
‘I accept that a lot of people don’t have that professional drive or it’s easier to just go to a really dark place. But there is a really dark place … Without my kids, I probably would have killed myself … What helps in the future? Telling the story to you guys. I think I’m going to have ongoing counselling over years.’