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Julian Ross's story

‘The school gave me so much, but underneath the surface it took so much away. Now there’s just anger and resentment and an inability to trust what they stand for.’

Julian described himself as an ‘open, trusting kid’. He lived in a happy family in Sydney and in Grade 4 in the 1980s, started attending a private school near home. His parents were passionate about the school, and as his brothers were already there, Julian was excited to join them.

When he was 10, Julian met teacher, Mr Donald, who paid extra attention to him in class. Julian regarded their contact as ‘special’ and enjoyed feeling like ‘the chosen one’. However before long, Donald started sexually abusing him.

‘This would often occur in his office, at the rear of the assembly hall during recess or lunch time … Once inside his office, rather than being spoken to across his desk, he’d invite you around to his side of the desk where he was sitting … He would then proceed to tickle me. Usually upper body to begin with … His hands would progress down my legs, inner thighs, buttocks, abdomen and my genitalia … So much so his caressing and fondling would sexually stimulate me until I gained an erection. I’d be laughing and tell him to stop, but then it would continue more.’

The abuse occurred numerous times throughout the year. Julian remembers twice being invited to Donald’s house for a sleepover and he and another student receiving ‘tickle attacks’ when they were clothed and in Donald’s bedroom.

The abuse stopped when Julian moved to a different campus at school. He didn’t tell anybody at the time what Donald had done.

Julian progressed through high school by focusing on sports and study. He went to university and completed an undergraduate and then master’s degree before setting up his own business.

After marrying, Julian disclosed the abuse to his wife. They subsequently had children and he felt that he was moving well through life.

However, some time later his behaviour started to change. He felt ‘a lack of fulfilment’ in his life and was often dissatisfied. As well, he said, he became ‘an angry man’, often snapping at his wife and children. On one occasion, he threw a chair across the room narrowly missing his son.

Julian described needing to be the centre of attention and a feeling that he ‘craved’ being special. This he now understands nearly cost him his family and his career. He reported having an ‘emotional affair’ with a person who ‘stroked his ego’.

‘This want and need led to a number of events, fluctuating emotive states and a crumbling state, a near loss of my marriage. All caused by me … I became a bull in a china shop in order to reach what I wanted. I had no emotional thermostat, an emotional disconnection … It’s like I developed a narcissistic appetite to fill an emotional void that was set up as a 10-year -old.’

With the encouragement of his wife, Julian started seeing a counsellor and through therapy began to develop greater awareness about patterns of his behaviour.

In recent years Julian had learned that Donald continued to abuse children at the school after he left. He also heard about school staff ignoring complaints about Donald’s behaviour, and remains angry at this lack of response.

‘What I find hard to understand is that the school – the teachers and those in positions of authority, those in charge over a thousand young, developing, innocent boys and young men – did not know. Worse yet, if they did know about it, why nothing was done and why they didn’t they put their neck out for the sake of the boys rather than protecting the reputation of the school.’

When Donald was eventually charged, Julian felt some degree of satisfaction. He’d once bumped into Donald at a shopping centre and was surprised that all he could do was introduce himself and say hello because he felt a ‘victim’ mindset had set in and it was suddenly too painful to think about the abuse.

Coming to the Royal Commission had been ‘like putting on a pair of slippers’, Julian said. He wanted to share his story to raise awareness of child sex abuse, but had no intention of notifying the police or approaching the school.

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