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Jason Thomas's story

Jason’s mother and father had lived through the Depression and he had ‘a fairly austere upbringing, not as many giggles as other kids might have had’. It was important to his hard-working parents that he have a good education and do well in life.

Because he was an intelligent child, he was encouraged to apply for a number of scholarships to good high schools. He won several, and the school his parents chose was an Anglican college not far from their home in Melbourne. He began there in Year 7 in the late 1960s.

‘It had quite a sensitive sort of middle school atmosphere … quite caring. Very sort of sporty, even though I wasn’t particularly good at anything, and I’d love to think that was because I didn’t find out I was short-sighted until I was about 16 … I’m still not particularly sporty … really, quite academic in later years.’

That year, Jason was sexually abused by a man named Michael Rankin. ‘The best I can remember, a bunch of kids from a bunch of different schools went to his sort of adventure camp thing. I remember a bus … driving into the school and picking up a few of us kids and then heading off. I can’t really remember much about the activities …

‘I know that I’ve just blocked the majority of it out, except for the sexual abuse, which I remember in great detail. And we were there for a couple of nights, and came back.’

The children slept in bungalows with bunks, and Jason was on the top. He said that two or three times during the camp, ‘suddenly someone’s approaching the bed and then fiddling with your genitals and manually stimulating you and then orally stimulating you until you had an orgasm … It just happened.

‘I think I must have been a bit submissive actually, because I don’t remember you know, any anger or a sort of fighting-type emotion. I must have been a bit piss-weak really … I think I must have just tolerated it.’

Jason wasn’t the only one abused at the camp, and another boy’s parents phoned his parents not long after they returned home.

‘I don’t remember having any inclination … to report it myself, but it did come to light fairly quickly. My parents … came to me and said … “Well, what happened at the camp?” and I said something like, “Oh, he put it in his mouth”. I remember that sort of causing stunned silence and sort of being the end of the conversation … and I don’t think it was ever spoken of again.’

Immediately after the revelation, Jason ‘felt ashamed and I didn’t quite know what to think ... I remember feeling that what had happened wasn’t right but I also remember feeling that you know, the way my parents … sort of shut the door on me … didn’t feel right either. So I … felt sort of awkward and stunned’.

Jason is unsure how much the sexual abuse is to blame for how his life turned out. As a young person, ‘I think I always have had … a bit of an inferiority complex. I didn’t think I was as good as the others’.

Jason didn’t have girlfriends at school and wasn’t ‘a confident person in relationships, sexual relationships’. In later years, he became, ‘quite an obsessive person and was always trying to do more than I should … and help too many people.’

In the early 2010s Jason suffered an episode of major depression with suicidal ideation. At the time he was having a bit of a ‘life crisis’, thinking of heading in a new direction with his long-established career. He was also binge drinking, and had begun talking about the sexual abuse to his family. The depression could have had multiple triggers.

Jason saw an advertisement in the newspaper for the Royal Commission and tore it out. It sat in his inbox for six months before he thought, ‘Bugger it. I’m going to call these guys and I had a very emotional call with one of [the Commission’s] counsellors …

‘Starting to talk to people about my sexual abuse … sort of took away the hidden nature of it and, you know … I think since I’ve spoken to the Royal Commission, and then spoken to my psychiatrist about it, you know, I think I’ve felt a hell of a lot better.’

He also discovered that Rankin was jailed in the mid-2000s for sexual offences against a number of children.

Jason told the Commissioner, ‘If the Jason who [went] to that camp had’ve known that that was wrong, or had’ve been given tools to deal with that prior to the event, I believe the outcome would have been different …

‘You couldn’t prevent the perpetrator getting access. I do believe my naivety and ignorance played a part and … the way that my parents treated me was typical of the time, but compounding in effect.’

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