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Kendall John's story

Kendall grew up in regional Victoria during the 1960s, and his parents ran a hotel. When he was six years old one of the male boarders offered him a toy to play with if he took his clothes off and lay on top of him. This happened twice, but Kendall did not tell his parents.

One day when Kendall was in around Year 1, his class at school was informed that there would be physical health checks conducted on all of the students – ‘it was as vague as that. I had no idea what to expect’. The children were called out of class individually for this examination. When it was Kendall’s turn he went to the office and was asked to strip down to his underpants.

‘I was called in. And I went in and the door was closed. And there was a reasonably well-dressed male sitting behind the desk. And he had some paperwork in front of him, and he took some notes, but he didn’t ask me any questions.

‘And then he asked me to stand in a particular position, and pull down my underpants. I still had no idea what it was about ... But I did what he told me to do. And then he started to fondle my private parts, and initially he was fondling my testicles or scrotum essentially, and then he pulled back my foreskin, which was very painful.’

Kendall didn’t have any idea what the man was doing. ‘I just remember that it hurt. And then he stopped and said that I could pull up my pants, and he seemed very brusque. And told me to leave.’ He got dressed and returned to class.

‘Later that day during one of the playtimes I spoke to my classmates to ask them what had happened to them. Because I just thought it was so strange ... Nobody seemed to know what I was talking about.’ Kendall felt embarrassed and stopped talking about it. He did not tell his parents or anyone else after this.

Although Kendall has always remembered what happened with the boarder at the motel, he had mostly buried the memory of the health check. The handful of times he did recall it, ‘I just thought it was strange’.

After seeing media reports about child sexual abuse, Kendall realised that what was done to him at school was not appropriate. ‘It wasn’t until recently that I thought about it in the context of what it was.’ Speaking with the Royal Commission was the first time he ever disclosed this incident as an adult, and he has since discussed it with his wife.

Kendall has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to his employment, and receives ongoing counselling for this. He finds that talking about how he is feeling is helpful, although at first he was worried about how people would react. ‘It was a lot easier to bear when I shared what I was going through ... Some people I find are unable to deal with it and so they distance themselves, but that’s okay.’

He is keenly aware of the impacts his mental health struggles have had on his family, particularly his wife. ‘The most difficult thing is my wife has had to try and put up with all of this, and I know it’s such a huge drain on her, and such a huge burden. And she doesn’t deserve. But I can’t fix that.’

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