Josef is very distrustful of the government and education department and has done his best over the years to bring people in authority to account. But what happened to him at school has affected his mental health such that he’s never sure how he’ll react under stress.
He told the Commissioner, ‘When I’m under that extreme pressure I’ll either crumble completely and they’ll just walk straight over the top of me or I’ll go completely the opposite way and go – I’ve got no in-between when I’m defending myself … it made me that angry that all I wanted to do was hit something or hit someone and take my aggression out’.
Josef attended a public high school in Adelaide. When he was 12 he went on a school camp and spent the first night with another boy in a two-person tent. In the middle of the night the tent fell down on them and a male teacher, Mr Wilson, pulled the boys out and got them to sleep in his tent. Josef now suspects Wilson had pulled the tent pegs out on purpose.
The next night, Wilson told Josef he could either sleep in his tent again or would have to sleep on his own, as the other boy had bunked into another tent. Josef said he trusted Wilson so he chose to share the tent rather than sleep on his own.
‘I woke up the next morning with him using my hand to masturbate himself.’
Josef told him he had to go to the toilet but Wilson told him to wee in the field, or he’d have to accompany him to the toilet block. Wilson made Josef get back in the tent, then unzipped his sleeping bag and pulled him close to get him warm.
‘I just remember like putting my hand out. It was just sort of slimy … and I remember disgusting. It was a really gross feeling.’
Another incident occurred after class one day when he and some other boys had been kept back. Wilson made them face the wall and put their hands behind their backs. He stood behind Josef and pushed his erect penis through his pants and into his hands.
Josef told nobody about the incidents, bottling it up until 20 years later, when he had a stay in a psychiatric ward and after he was released, he was talking to someone and ‘it just fell out of my mouth’.
‘It was then that I realised that that was sort of like, you know, half my issues over the last 20 years.’
He went to report the incidents to the police but was brushed off by the officer on duty. ‘I was going through fairly severe mental health issues, and she basically told me to go home and have some medication.’
The next day he went to his former school, where Wilson was now the principal.
‘I got there before school had started and was letting any parents know, who were dropping their kids off, that the principal was a paedophile and not to leave their kids at that school until he was removed.’
He confronted Wilson and the police were called. Josef then gave a statement at the police station and the child sex division got involved. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions didn’t prosecute because there was no major evidence and they decided Josef’s mental health was not strong enough.
He found out later on from the education department that Wilson was being dismissed. He also found out that Wilson had already been charged and convicted of sexual abuse in the 1970s, before he even became a teacher. He doesn’t believe Wilson was ever prosecuted for the offences he committed against Josef.
He also suspects another incident happened when he was younger, in Grade 5, and on a school trip. A teacher came into their room and took Josef and another boy to another room where he was given something to drink. He can’t remember anything else from the time, but one night he was watching the TV news and saw himself.
‘They showed a shot on the screen of a whole stack of pictures … It was a bunch of pictures they had got from paedophiles. And I was in one of those pictures.’
He recognised the pictures as having been taken on that school trip and he believes he was drugged that night by a teacher, who was an associate of Wilson.
Despite his mental health problems, Josef has made significant efforts to lobby government to change the law and procedures around child sex abuse cases, but he believes there is much more to be done, particularly around educating children.
‘There was no sort of education … it was only strangers that was any danger. None of us were taught certain actions were wrong.’
He said he would have handled things differently if he’d had better information as a boy. Instead he has suffered greatly through his adult life.
‘People who haven’t been through it just don’t know – like anybody who hasn’t been abused in some way, shape or form can never totally understand the way it affects someone that has.’