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Ken Simon's story

When Ken acted up at school, his teacher sent him out of the classroom. Father Peter Grady would always be waiting for him outside. He’d take Ken to a room and sexually assault him. It happened often.

The school was a small Catholic one, in a Victorian country town. Ken was about 10 and in Grade 5 the year the assaults took place, in the late 1980s. Ken’s not sure how it happened that Grady was there every time he got kicked out of class. He wonders if it was because the teacher hoped Grady would provide pastoral care, and help him to improve his behaviour.

Grady’s abuse had the opposite effect. Ken’s behaviour got worse. He’d get sent out of class. Grady would then assault him again. It was a vicious circle.

‘Don’t get me wrong’, Ken said. He was never a perfect student. ‘But it definitely got worse from there in, 100 per cent.’

Ken didn’t speak to anyone about what Grady was doing. Grady told him it was private. ‘He said it was just between me and him and just keep it that way.’

People did try to find out what was behind Ken’s poor behaviour. ‘Heaps of people asked me what was wrong. Me mum asked me what was wrong.’ The principal asked him if he had problems at home. But it didn’t occur to anyone to ask if he was being abused. ‘I never really got asked that question directly.’

As well, he said, it was hard to know who to trust. If you spoke up as a kid and the wrong people found out, ‘You’d turn a bad situation to worse, I guess’.

Eventually Ken was expelled. He began attending a state primary school some distance away. He stopped going to church. He heard later that Grady had left the district.

Getting in touch with the Commission was the first time Ken had spoken of his abuse. ‘I don’t know what sort of got into me … Yeah, I ended up making the phone call.’ As a result of that initial contact, Ken is now in touch with a legal aid service, examining his options for redress. He has been sent some paperwork to fill out, to begin the process of seeking compensation.

‘But I mean, how do you put a price on your arse?’

Ken was in jail when he spoke to the Commissioner. He’d left school early – he believes Grady’s abuse made it impossible for him to learn. He’d started committing offences as a juvenile. Self-harm, drug use, problems with relationships and attempted suicide were all part of his life story. He was considering seeking counselling to help him with some of those issues.

Looking back he believes the system let him down. ‘Obviously, in the Catholic system there are paedophiles right through it. They shouldn’t be allowed round kids on their own.’

He said that to make a difference in future, kids need to be better educated – ‘To tell them where they stand with this type of thing’. They need to know that ‘this is wrong and speak up about it, and you’re not the one at fault’, he told the Commissioner.

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