Marius was abused for the first time as a six or seven-year-old at primary school in Melbourne, in the mid-1960s. It happened in the school toilets. Two tradesmen were using the urinal when Marius was there, and first one and then the other made Marius touch his penis to make it grow larger. He said he was also forced to perform oral sex on them.
Marius told the Commissioner that he now saw this experience as the seed of all the abuse that followed. It started the process off, he said.
‘That was the seed which completely exploded the possibility that I had any concept that “That is wrong, period”. Then you just go with the doubt from then on. It’s meant to happen. You need to be quiet and be a good boy’, he explained.
‘You don’t like it – it’s icky, but it must be the way it goes in the adult world.’
Marius suffered successive experiences of ongoing abuse over the next 10 years. For a long time he blamed himself, he said. He felt he must have been at fault. ‘Did I have a flag above my head saying “Please molest me now”?’
Counselling has helped him to a better understanding of such questions. ‘It constantly preys on my mind: Why didn’t I just scream? Why didn’t I just kick and bite? ...
‘One really crucial insight that’s come out of [counselling] is that my mind as a seven-year-old is still going “Hey, this is a fantastic world”, you know.’ And abuse was just a part of that world. ‘It’s horrible, I hate it, but it’s normal. … People do this and isn’t it horrible, but hey, I don’t like tennis, either, but I’ve got to do it.’
Marius’s second experience of abuse began when he was in Year 5. For the first time, he had a male teacher, Nigel Page. Another first was the way Page had organised the classroom. He placed his desk at the back, behind the students, instead of at the front, by the blackboard.
As it turned out, this arrangement allowed Page to summon Marius to stand beside him at his desk where he would put his hand into Marius’s pants, fondle him and digitally penetrate his anus, while the other children looked towards the front of the room, copying work off the blackboard. This happened several times a week, to Marius and to other children in the class. Page also often gave Marius detention, and abused him then as well.
During one detention, Marius escaped from the classroom and ran to the principal’s office, crying and yelling that he wasn’t stupid and hadn’t done anything wrong and didn’t deserve to be in detention. He was taken back to the classroom.
‘That’s when you kind of go into the mode of I give up’, Marius said.
In his first year of high school, Marius had swimming lessons and was molested by his instructor. He was also badly bullied by boys at school. A group of them held him down in the showers and penetrated his anus with a mop handle. Another time he was stripped and tied to a gate.
At the end of that year he met Martin Sinclair, through the church he and his family attended. Sinclair was the organist there. Marius became his student, and had lessons most weekends. Sinclair became very close to Marius’s parents too, and was respected by them for the opportunities he gave Marius. He helped Marius apply for and gain a scholarship to a prestigious school. He took him to concerts, out for meals and organised for him to stay over at his house.
Sinclair also sexually abused Marius, beginning with forced masturbation and oral sex and escalating over time to rape. The almost-weekly sexual assaults only ended when Marius turned 16 and refused to have anything more to do with Sinclair.
Marius’s parents were oblivious to the abuse he was suffering and he doesn’t blame them for that. They were completely naive and trusting, he said. ‘They would not in any way shape or form have thought for a moment that something this momentous was going on.’
In fact, he credits them with being the reason he has survived his experiences. ‘They gave me so much. They were the most wonderful people’, he said. In particular, his father’s strong, steadfast morality – this is right, this is wrong – ‘it’s kept me alive, so much’, he said.
Marius has seen different counsellors over the years but it has not been easy to find someone with specialist understanding of his particular needs. He finally starting seeing someone who helped but had to stop because he could no longer afford the appointments. A few years ago he reported his abuse to police. He hoped to end up with a compensation payout he could use to return to counselling.
Dealing with police and also with the Department of Education, as he tried to find records about Page, was traumatic and ultimately fruitless. After some months he learned that both Page and Sinclair had died. There was no care or thought taken in how that news was presented. ‘So that’s the end of the case’, said the officer who called to tell him. ‘We’re going to shred the paperwork, or do you want it back?’
Marius said he had never cared that much about seeing Page and Sinclair convicted. But had they ended up in court, he would have asked them to answer the question – why?
‘Throwing them in jail might be an excellent way of society saying this is the line that you’ve crossed, and as result this is the penalty. Pointless to me. I want to know why. I want to know how that all happened, so that we know how to stop it happening ever again’, Marius said.
He believes a set of early warning signs needs to be identified that would trigger early intervention from principals, teachers and others in institutions. ‘So that we can stop it happening from the start, not come and pick up the pieces after the whole thing’s over.’
It’s even possible, he said, that early intervention might mean a perpetrator could get help that would stop them from offending.
Marius said he is still in desperate need of effective counselling. It wouldn’t cost the federal government much. ‘With $400-$500 of the right kind of counselling I could be healed, or at least put on the path to healing.’