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Harris Paul's story

‘I’m pretty much an open book. I guess I’ve got to the point where I suppose I’m no longer ashamed of it, and that’s the way I’ve been made to feel at the time. You shut your mouth for years, you do your best to bury it.’

Mr McGuire, a young teacher at the government school Harris attended in suburban Adelaide in the 1960s, lived with another teacher, Mr Morton, in an apartment near the school. When Harris was around 14 years old, McGuire would take him back to this apartment on the pretext of providing additional one-on-one school tuition.

Instead of assisting Harris with his studies, McGuire sexually abused Harris during these visits. The abuse included masturbating Harris, masturbating himself, and in one instance unsuccessfully attempting to penetrate Harris. This happened once or twice a week over several months, and on one occasion Mr Morton walked in while the abuse was happening.

Harris didn’t tell anyone what McGuire was doing to him.

‘Parents were so trusting, and people in that position [were trusted] – you couldn’t say anything because you’d be slapped silly for daring to accuse a priest or a teacher or a policeman. They were supposedly pillars of society.’

Although Harris was technically competent he ended up failing his school leaving certificate. He had difficulty trusting people and poor interpersonal relationships, and he has experimented with marijuana, heroin and LSD. At times he feels suicidal but is able to manage these thoughts, finding his fortnightly contact with a counsellor very helpful.

In the early 2000s Harris disclosed the abuse to a friend who had grown up in orphanages and ‘is also a survivor’. ‘Talking to him gave me the courage to bring it out. He’s probably as much as anything responsible for me getting over the shame of it.’

Harris then disclosed these incidents to police. ‘They basically grilled me for five hours on the first occasion, then a week or so later they grilled me for another five hours on exactly what happened. And then they just fluffed around, and eventually one day rang me one day and said, “Oh we don’t have the funding to pursue this any further, so bad luck”. It was that flippant. That sort of put me right back to where I started.’

He complained to the ombudsman about this response a year later but was told it was too late for them to investigate. Very recently Harris contacted the police again, and updated his original statement. He received a follow-up call from a detective stating that McGuire had denied committing the abuse, and that Morton had been questioned about whether he witnessed any abuse. As yet no charges have been laid.

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