Jasper John's story

It was a serious childhood accident in the 1960s that gave Jasper his ongoing physical injuries. And it was 18 months of sexual abuse that left him with permanent emotional trauma. ‘The real world scares the living hell out of me,’ he told the Commission.

From Year 7 Jasper began truanting from his boarding school in Sydney. He was aware that the housemaster invited his favourite boys to the housekeeper’s house at night and one night he walked into the boarding house and saw a group of boys having sex. ‘And the house mistress, or nurse, had walked into the performance and ordered me out. I didn’t take part in what they were doing.’

Not long after that, he was expelled for truanting and his parents moved him to another boarding school west of Sydney. There was another school next door, a Catholic school. Some of the staff from there ‘virtually used to jump the back fence and come over and molest the boys’. Jasper was one of the boys. He doesn’t know the name of the man who abused him, but he knows he was on staff.

The abuse stopped, for Jasper at least, when he finally reported it to the headmaster of his own school. He thinks that the headmaster ‘put the word out’. He does think that other boys continued to be molested however.

He told his family but it took a while for them to accept that it actually happened. At first they described it as ‘rough play’ and his father said he couldn’t fathom it. At a meeting with the school, his family threatened to involve the archbishop. But that idea was abandoned. ‘It was all too extreme to get involved with. It would have cost thousands.’

There was an attempt to bring the abuse to the attention of the Catholic Association. But ‘they’re a law unto themselves, the swines’.

Were the police mentioned? ‘Many times.’ Jasper in fact took himself to the police station and reported it after he left the school. But the only action the police took was to talk him out of reporting it. Why? Because ‘my dad is my dad’. Jasper’s father had a very high-status profile in the town. The police asked Jasper to imagine the ‘big spanner’ that would get thrown in the works for the family if the sexual abuse became public.

Years later a local law firm also discouraged Jasper from taking legal action. Jasper knew he had enough evidence for a trial but was told he was ‘blowing it out of all proportion’. They said imagine how demoralising it would be ‘for you and your family’ to report it. ‘So the guilt set in dramatically for me.’

So neither college has ever been held accountable, nor does Jasper intend to sue them now. He doesn’t want to live through it again. He believes it would be ‘demoralising and self-destroying’ for him if he tried to hold them to account.

Jasper left school in Year 10. He’s lived on his own for a long time. ‘Having a laugh at himself’ and humor in general helps sustain him. But he doesn’t trust anyone anymore. He’s had years of friends letting him down and making light of what he went through.

He’s on medication for depression and his family are now his most valued counsellors. ‘All the cards are on the table now … due to my perseverance … It’s got to be recognised. It’s got to be repaired.’

Jasper believes if the abuse had been properly acknowledged and dealt with ‘there would have been direct involvement with living a straighter life, being able to trust people, being able to communicate in a correct way with them, not talk about things that aren’t important’.

He had one other observation. ‘I have no interest in having children, but if I did, I would not send them to boarding school.’


Content updating Updating complete