Harrison Michael's story

Harrison grew up as an only child in Adelaide in the 1940s. His mother had struggled to have children, and was very overprotective. At the age of five he was sexually abused by an uncle who babysat him and would fondle his genitals while giving him his bath.

Overall Harrison enjoyed his time at the Anglican college he attended for his primary and secondary schooling. However, when he was 10 years old, he was sexually abused by Francis, an ‘ex-pupil’ (‘an old bloke, he was well over retirement age’) who frequently visited the school.

Francis would entice Harrison to meet him alone after class. ‘He started to try and kiss me, and I objected strenuously to that, and I sort of pushed him away ... But he didn’t stop, he still kept trying. For weeks afterwards he still kept trying, but I rejected him. In the meantime his hand would come across the seat and he was attempting to masturbate me in a way, which I must admit I didn’t find all that unpleasant.’

At times Francis came and visited Harrison at home for tea. Harrison’s mother was suspicious and asked him directly if Francis ever ‘touched you anywhere’, but he denied it ‘emphatically’. After some time Francis ‘disappeared’ and Harrison does not know what become of him.

Harrison was heavily involved in the choir at his local Anglican church. He became close to the choirmaster, Mr Newman, who was ‘very morose’ and lonely as his wife and kids had left him. ‘I was great friends with him, and he with me.’

When he was 13 years old, Newman invited him to his home to play tennis, and ‘I liked the idea of going over’. At the house he was told to strip off and change into a tight pair of white shorts before they commenced playing. ‘They were so tight that I could hardly move in them.’

He and Newman had a game and ‘he’s patting me on the bum, and this sort of thing’. After they had finished Harrison was instructed to take a shower.

‘I got in the shower, and a couple of minutes later he ended up in the shower with me. And he had anal sex with me. Which again I didn’t object to at the time ... although I was very ashamed of it later. I was very ashamed, and never said anything to anybody.’

Following this last incident Harrison carried a lot of anger and became rebellious at school. ‘I felt that I underachieved. I felt that I could’ve done a lot better. It got to the stage where I hated authority.’ After completing school he found an office job, but didn’t stay long in this role as he was ‘still very anti-social’, so he left to go driving trucks.

For many years Harrison kept the abuse he’d experienced to himself, until disclosing it in detail when he spoke to the Royal Commission. It was a long time before he realised the severity of what the three men had done to him. ‘I do now. I know they were abusing me, they were sexually abusing me. And I know that now. At the time, I just considered it play.’

Harrison believes the abuse made him ‘over-sexualised’ – and his ‘attitude to women was one of contempt, and this came from my mother’. He sought short term sexual interactions with women, rather than long term relationships. ‘Once I’d had sex with them I’d just drop them completely.’ Now he has been married to the same woman for many years, and they have adult children.

As a young adult, Harrison became interested in children he knew as ‘a sexual object’, and sexually abused a number of children over several decades. ‘I would convince myself I was only looking at them in a loving way. That I just wanted to love the child. That’s bullshit. I was after them sexually ... I think I looked at it that, it didn’t hurt me, it won’t hurt them.’

When he became extremely ill he reflected in more detail the abuse he’d experienced and committed. ‘I’d endeavoured for 50 years to push it aside, and I’d succeeded. And slowly but surely I started to re-picture everything ... And I sat there and thought, “this is wrong, you know, it’s just not right. What I am doing is not right. What I was up to is not right. Face it. What they did to me was not right”. And then I get angry.’

Harrison sought help from a forensic psychologist for ‘these feelings of guilt that were starting to emerge’ about his offending. He had intentions to see the psychologist regularly but within a short time he was arrested. Currently serving a prison term for a historical child sex offence, Harrison reported that he’d not committed further offences for two decades.

He has completed sex offender programs in prison. One was ‘just to bring your thoughts out’, while another was run by psychologists and ‘very intense’, even bringing his wife in to discuss his offending ‘so that she knew exactly what was going on’.

Still, Harrison does not consider himself fully rehabilitated. ‘There’s no cure for this thing, so I don’t consider I’m cured. There’s just a realisation that it’s wrong.’

He suggested that if there was a support service for people with sexual feelings for children, but who have not acted on these feelings, this could prevent some abuse from happening. If this kind of help had been available to him when he was a young man, he believes he would have accessed it. ‘I was never at ease with what I was doing, but I was compelled from inside me to do it.’

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