Lennox is the oldest of four children who grew up on a dairy farm in regional Victoria. It was a hard-working childhood – up at 4 am to milk the cows before school and more hours of labour after school.
In the early 1960s, Lennox started high school. It was an all-boys school some distance away. Lennox walked two kilometres to catch the bus for the 27-kilometre journey to school.
The corporal punishment administered at the school came as a shock to Lennox. ‘Every teacher used the strap’, he said. But it became normal over time. ‘It ended up being a game to see how many straps you could get in a year’, Lennox said.
More of a problem were the attentions Lennox received from his English teacher, also a captain in the school’s army cadets program. At first Lennox didn’t take much notice of the teacher’s sexual advances, but in cadets it became a problem. ‘He got more bold every time’, Lennox said.
Lennox didn’t feel able to tell anyone about the molestation. He couldn’t talk about it at home, as life there was difficult too.
‘One of the main things that stopped me reporting was that my father was an extremely abusive person, physically, mentally, everything’, Lennox explained. ‘I took the sexual assault as the easier option to what my father would do.’
Lennox said that looking back, he realised the teacher had been grooming him for the abuse from early on in his high-school years. ‘He knew about my family life. He knew he was safe’, Lennox said.
But Lennox had no sense of that at the time. Back then, he felt as if he should have been able to handle what was happening. ‘I felt I should have been like an adult and got around it. I should have been stronger’, he told the Commissioner. ‘But I was still a child really.’
In Form 5, Lennox couldn’t take any more. He ran away from home. He was found a week later, hiding out at the showground of a nearby town, living as a vagrant. ‘That was a bit of a cry for help. Then I come home and I was treated as a bad kid, running away … I couldn’t tell nobody.’
Running away brought an end to the abuse, however. Back at school, Lennox found the teacher now left him alone. But he suspected that it continued, with other boys. ‘He was always in the showers ... He was always around’, Lennox recalled. ‘He was always touching kids and that.’
Years later, it turned out that Lennox’s younger brother Jamie had been one of those other boys. At Jamie’s funeral, his daughter told Lennox that he had been sexually assaulted at school by the same teacher.
‘I wasn’t surprised when she started telling me’, Lennox said. It explained some of his brother’s violent, troubled behaviour. He had been a member of a bikie gang. He had bashed up gay men, and been jailed for attacking a recently released sex offender.
‘He was always a very angry person, my brother’, Lennox told the Commissioner.
For Lennox, anger was just one consequence of the abuse. ‘I always had very low self-esteem, always thinking I’m one of the worst people around – never had any liking for myself whatsoever. Just the idea of hopelessness, and – that word – useless.
'And that’s been all through my life. I’ve always worked, but I’ve never held a job any length of time, more than three or four years. I got sacked a lot for hitting the boss … Couldn’t take authority whatsoever.’
Lennox coped by throwing himself into work. He became his own boss, and would work 80 or 90 hours a week in his trade as a boilermaker and fitter/turner.
His risk-taking in the workplace, which he now sees as a form of self-harm, caused him to suffer serious injuries that have left him permanently disabled.
‘I didn’t care whether I was injured or died; if it happened it happened. And that was a big part of my life, that I did a lot of things I shouldn’t do.’ After hours, he played sport. ‘I don’t give myself any time to really think’, he said.
He has had a stable and rewarding marriage for almost 40 years, and credits his wife for her ongoing support. When he began to feel suicidal around 20 years ago, he disclosed the abuse to her and her best friend. ‘That was the first people I told’, he said.
Lennox has not reported the abuse to police because he feels he’s not able to provide the concrete evidence of dates and times that may be required. But recently he has joined a men’s group organised through a sexual abuse support group, which he’s finding beneficial.
‘I really don’t think I’d be around now unless I’d been [to the group]. We all get on really well … That group’s helped me a lot. I couldn’t do it without them now. You look forward to that every fortnight’, he said.
Lennox believes he might have been helped at the time of the abuse by having someone he could talk to about it. ‘Someone you could go to’, he said. If not your parents, then somebody else – perhaps the principal, he said. ‘But what still worries me now is that some institutions just don’t get it. Even now. And that’s – I’d like to see that fixed somehow.’ He hopes the Royal Commission’s work will raise community awareness about the problem.
‘I’d like to see people feel free to come forward and talk about it.’