Lincoln grew up in a devout Catholic family in Sydney, and in the late 1970s attended a co-educational Catholic primary school. In Year 5, he followed his older brother to a Catholic college that taught boys from Years 5 to 12.
Primary school, ‘was just fun. I had lots of friends. It was just … paradise. The thought of going to a high school that was like an hour away and all boys, was just … it’s never sat well with me’.
Lincoln told the Commissioner, ‘When you come from a co-ed primary school and go into an all-male high school, all that testosterone and, you know, the team sports thing and all that.’
Lincoln was bullied from the beginning. It started with boys from his brother’s year, but then those in his year and the year above him began to join in. ‘My brother’s mates didn’t go into anything nasty. It was pick me up, put me in the trough, and turn all the taps on, that type of thing … It didn’t worry me.’
What did worry Lincoln was the abuse on the hour-long bus trips home each afternoon. ‘You just copped it all the way home … being tied to the bars on the bus by your tie, so you miss your stop and you know, three stops down the road … the end of the line, the driver would come and untie you, and you’d try and get home.’
Lincoln recalled one time when he was held down on the floor of the bus and some boys told their younger brother to run down the bus and ‘kick me in the nuts’. All the boys, including the transport prefect, participated in the bullying.
The three boys who sexually abused Lincoln had known each other before they started at the school. ‘They were already like a little tribe, and I think I came to their attention when I came to the aid of a kid in my year in Year 5 who was different, and they picked it. And that never sat well with me, that kind of stuff, so I stuck up for him and I started copping it.’
The primary school boys were let out 10 minutes before the secondary school bell rang. There was a long walk through the school grounds to the bus stop and only one teacher on duty at the stop, and one back at the primary area. ‘In between, there was nobody. So that’s where I used to cop a lot of hits and stuff like that … on the way to the bus stop.’
The three boys had been telling Lincoln for a while ‘We’re going to get you'.
'And so three of them started on me and I ran. But they tackled me close to the oval and dragged me under a tree.
'One was kneeling on my back, one holding my head down, while the one on my back was punching me in the side of the head and stuff.'
The third boy pulled Lincoln’s pants down, ‘and picked up a stick from the tree and shoved it in. And then they threatened me if I told anyone, it’d happen again, and they went off laughing’.
Lincoln went home and didn’t say anything, but the next day he broke out in hives. He couldn’t go to school for the next two or three weeks, and when his mother took him to a skin specialist, he couldn’t find any cause. ‘It was obviously stress.’
The culture of bullying at the school was tolerated, and in Lincoln’s case it continued until he took up martial arts and boxing, and was able to defend himself. After one fight, when he punched back, the bullies left him alone.
‘I became pretty much a loner, bar a couple of local friends close to home … I went from being a probably happy-go-lucky kid to being quite withdrawn from things.’
During his teens and 20s, Lincoln became ‘very guarded about my body’ and when he was boxing or attending gyms for fitness training, he found it difficult to deal with showering with other males. ‘Anywhere you had to get changed in a change room or something like that was very stressful.’
Lincoln had blocked out the sexual abuse, and had never told anyone about it until his son was subjected to sexual harassment at kindergarten about six years ago. When Lincoln revealed his own sexual abuse to his wife, ‘She didn’t believe me … I suppose what you’re always afraid of is not being believed, and that happened and her whole family turned on me’.
Lincoln’s marriage did not survive the revelation. When he told his own parents, they were very supportive and his mother disclosed to him ‘something she’d never told anyone but Dad … She’d been assaulted when she was at work’.
A year ago, Lincoln attended a week-long program for those who have experienced trauma, called Heal for Life. He found it very helpful talking to others, and plans to return to train as a peer support volunteer. He is also attending counselling and hypnotherapy, after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder with dissociative episodes.
Lincoln told the Commissioner that he isn’t interested in applying for compensation from the school. ‘All I want is for them to have a think about it, and change their policy on primary school children in a high school and make sure there’s the right amount of supervision, so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to any kid.’