‘I started there when I was 10 years old … I went there with a mate for disco. It was 1980 or whatever, like at the time of the whole disco thing … The instructors there took a liking to my posture. They said I had very good posture, suitable for ballroom dancing. So, at their request, I went to a dance class for ballroom. Immediately I really liked it. It just went on from there.’
Izaac attended the same dance studio where his mother enjoyed social dancing. He joined because he wanted to learn how to disco dance. He didn't have an affinity for disco but, as observed by the studio instructors, was naturally gifted at ballroom dancing. Before long he was hooked and began to train up to five times a week for competitions.
Approximately 10 other young boys trained at the studio owned by Nigel Cole, who was in his late 50s.
‘He was there most occasions. He had an office, a big dance studio upstairs … On most evenings that I was there, and other boys too, we’d go into his office for a good old pep talk. He sat very close and there was a lot of rubbing up on the thigh, right up to the crotch, which as a kid with very little contact physically – my parents weren’t very physical – I didn’t understand it or know what it was.
'It was a little bit uncomfortable, I guess, but it wasn’t something that I thought I had to talk to someone about. And that went on just constantly for the whole time I was there. And I know that other boys went into the office as well.’
As Izaac’s dancing skills increased, he began to compete nationally, travelling interstate. On one of these trips he was staying with his teammates and Cole in the same motel.
‘I went to sleep in there and then woke up in the middle of the night. Cole was having sex with me … I had no idea what was really going on. I was probably 13, I suppose.
Eventually I got up and went in the bathroom. I was in there for a spell, just wondering what was happening and what I should do. And I went back in and he tried to coax me … I think from what I really recall, I’m pretty sure I went to another room. I don’t remember much.’
After this incident, Izaac remained involved in the ballroom dancing community but wasn’t touched by Cole again because, ‘I don’t think he had the right environment’. Izaac continued competitive dancing ‘for a little bit’ but by the time he was 15 he’d stopped dancing entirely. ‘Things changed. I wasn’t the same again.’
After being raped by Cole, Izaac’s education went downhill. ‘I started self-harming, cutting, getting into trouble.’ He dropped out of school and from the age of 15, worked full-time in various jobs. He married and had children, and found he had a talent for music, so threw himself into that, pushing the incident with Cole to the far reaches of his mind.
‘It didn’t occur to me on a conscious level for about 10 years. I never thought of it, never considered it. I could even say it never bothered me except it was a very troublesome 10 years.
'Then I was at work one day, and flipping through the local newspaper and there was a piece on the studio. And there’s a picture of him there. So then it happened twice then, ‘cause … I remember it.’
After his memories of the abuse came flooding back, Izaac threw himself into work and saw very little of his children. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. Eventually, when he was 33, he told his wife. He also told his mother but she did not believe him. He tried counselling but didn’t find it effective. ‘I tried some counsellors early on but I never clicked with anyone; it just didn’t work.’
These days Izaac no longer uses drugs but he still drinks more than he thinks he should. He and his wife have separated but he has changed career paths and can now spend more time with his children. His new job is ‘the most boring thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve had my fun and now I spend a lot of time with the kids. I drop them off at school and pick them up from school’.
Through an unrelated incident, Izaac connected with a psychologist and is now having therapy. ‘I sort of got on really well with her and I felt really good after seeing her. So I still see her now regularly and I’ve talked to her about this.’
Izaac no longer dances and hasn’t since he was 15 because ‘it doesn’t feel good’. He is concerned about two young brothers who trained at the studio with him and believes they were also targeted by Cole. Although he doesn’t have confirmation, he believes that one of the brothers has since taken his own life.
‘I can understand if they did.’