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Jordan Peter's story

Jordan describes his parents as being of an era ‘that I don’t think was very sympathetic to the needs or demands of children’.

‘They were very, very strange but remarkable people, and had they not been my parents I would have been delighted to know them.’

His parents’ feelings were not often displayed and in the late 1940s as they embarked on a six-month voyage overseas, they entrusted their two sons to the care of a Sydney Anglican boarding school.

Reverend Holtan, dormitory master at the school, was initially very kind to Jordan who recalled him ‘acting ostensibly in loco parentis’. This kindness compounded Jordan’s confusion and fear later when the Reverend singled him out for abuse.

‘I actually fell apart before any of this thing happened’, Jordan said. ‘I got quite emotional and my brother came to me - I was nine - and I remember sliding down a wall, just falling over. I was absolutely, I was really in shock by the immediate sort of, the hostility. The palpable hostility of that environment really terrified me.’

The ‘first encounter’ with Holtan occurred one night after Jordan woke with an earache and got up after lights out to go to the bathroom. En route, Holtan called him into his room.

Jordan recalled Holtan lifting him up and putting him on his lap and then putting his arms around him.

‘The next thing I knew - or didn’t know - I was totally unconscious. It was liking having an anaesthetic. I just have no memory of the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness until I awoke, and I was quite disturbed – no I wasn’t really, I wasn’t disturbed – but I was surprised at the fact that his hand, or one of his hands, was between my legs and was in proximity to my scrotum, but there was no movement there …

‘He said, “Your earache’s gone hasn’t it, Jordan?” And it had, it had gone, completely gone.

‘This is the part that caused, I think in my case, an incredible conflict subsequently, because I was suddenly in awe of this man. My father, to my knowledge, had never picked me up; my mother rarely – she couldn’t, she had a huge issue with children. So I thought, well, this man’s a god of some kind. He’s amazing. This didn’t involve any medication and it had gone and it didn’t to my knowledge come back subsequently.’

Over the next few months, Holtan called Jordan into his room again several times. On these occasions the Reverend caned Jordan in ways that seemed prolonged and ritualistic. He would drink some kind of alcohol and hit furniture and other things before strapping Jordan. And having made Jordan take off all his clothes, Holtan asked, ‘How do you feel standing before God in your nakedness?’

Jordan said that during one of these episodes Holtan ‘suddenly grabbed me and rammed his tongue down my throat’.

‘He was frightened after he’d done it. He said, “Don’t tell anybody and get dressed and go to bed”.’

Jordan didn’t want to risk telling his brother, or others, because he feared being ‘ostracised or regarded as peculiar’. His other fear was that Holtan ‘might continue’.

For years afterwards, Jordan had nightmares in which a large faceless man fell on top of him. He also had a ‘deep-rooted reflexive fear’ of authority which made it difficult in workplaces, and he described feelings of poor self-confidence and worth.

‘I always believed that there was something wrong with me, rather than him, because he represented authority, and there’s that sort of thing when you’re a kid that anyone older than you is right. So anything they say is law and anything you do to oppose that is against the law so you are, in a sense, in the wrong. So that compounded the feeling I had of [feeling] worthless and ashamed.’

Jordan first disclosed the abuse in his mid-30s. He’d been ‘going through primal therapy’ and decided to tell his father.

‘I wrote and said, “Do you realise that expensive orphanage you sent my brother and myself to was a playground for perverts?” All he could come up with in response to this was, “Oh, I didn’t know it was a playground for perverts”. It was pointless. And then I just closed up again.’

Jordan described his life as ‘very, very strange’.

‘I’ve had a succession of relationships that always ended disastrously. I was engaged when I was quite young for four, five years and I always had to self-destruct or destroy the relationship because I couldn’t stand anyone being close to me …

‘I’m not happy. I can’t pretend I’m happy and I don’t know whether the actual reawakening of this business that I’m talking about now has exacerbated that or not. I don’t know that giving it oxygen or, you know, I don’t think that can ever, ever, ever be dealt with really in a curative way.’

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