Marvin was abused by a teacher while he was boarding at an elite Anglican private school. Forty years later that experience cost him a job – at the same school.
The boarding school shut down over the weekend and students were expected to return home. But one weekend Marvin’s mother was sick and Marvin couldn’t join his family. He was sent to stay with a teacher, Dale Hall. ‘We slept in the same room, in a kind of verandah type room. And I woke up with him naked on top of me.’
The abuse happened again, four or five times across two years. ‘I think he was an opportunist who took his opportunity’, Marvin told the Commissioner. ‘I was pretty naive, I wasn’t an aggressive sort of person. I just didn’t know how to react to it.’
‘The next morning he was emotionally cold, and I just think he knew he had absolute power over me.’
Marvin’s parents did not know about the weekends with Mr Hall. The school never sought their consent for Marvin to stay with the teacher. Marvin remembers his mother being confused when Dale Hall sent her a gift as Marvin finished at the school. She had never met the man.
Marvin told no one about the abuse at the time. ‘When something like this happens and you go back to the boarding house … where you had a hundred friends and it’s, “How was your weekend with Hall?” Of course you lie, you have to hide yourself because you don’t want to be seen to be what you perceive yourself as being.’
‘Academically I think I suffered ... and I found it very hard to hold down relationships with people, particularly women.’ But Marvin got on with his life, succeeding at university and in his career. ‘What had happened had happened and I perceived it as a weakness within myself.’
Marvin says he enjoyed his time at the school, abuse aside. Late in his career he became unemployed and a job opportunity arose back at his old school – a senior administrative position. Marvin walked the school grounds once again to see if the memories of Dale Hall would prove too painful. In the end he was reluctant, but out of necessity accepted the job.
He worked hard for many years at the school, and still has a place in his heart for the institution. But the relationship with the school administration began to sour when other incidents of abuse at the school came to light. Marvin decided to reveal his own experience to the principal. He received a sympathetic hearing and was referred to a Church body to tell his story to a counsellor.
‘After one session that was it. Because they were more interested in whether I was going to take action … and I didn’t find it of any benefit at all.’
Meanwhile leadership at the school had changed. Another abuse allegation arose and the new principal flew interstate to meet with the former pupil. Marvin was present at a meeting where the principal reported, ‘We don’t have to worry about this man. He won’t take action. And even if he did he wouldn’t succeed. He’s been quite successful in life’. That approach to the victim infuriated Marvin. He took holidays to think and eventually decided to leave the school. He was offered a redundancy and parted on reasonable terms.
Marvin met with the school council in his final week to tell them his story and to explain that he was leaving mainly because of his abuse. He was now finding it hard to enter the school gates. ‘All the members of the council rang within the next four or five days to say how sorry they were – except for the members of the Church.’
Marvin reported his abuse to police. They investigated, but discovered Hall had died. Marvin chose not to take the matter further with them. He felt he still had unresolved business with the school, however. Lawyers became involved, and after a ‘very bullying, threatening process’, a financial settlement was agreed.
‘I was angry and I’m still angry. I think the process they put me through, the delays, the lack of communication … I feel totally ostracised from the school these days. … The school’s made no attempt to speak to me.’
Marvin is worried for current pupils. ‘I felt that procedures within the school were antiquated and I wasn’t convinced students at the school were protected.’ He spoke to an old teacher, a man who had been at Marvin’s boarding house when Marvin was a pupil. Marvin told him about his abuse. ‘He said, “Marvin, it happens to all of us. It’s about becoming a man”. That attitude, that collegiality that takes place in schools – it just permeates that place.’
‘The school has never asked me what happened. If you don’t ask what happened, what can you do about stopping it happening again? You can’t.’