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Max Jesse's story

Max’s parents lived and worked overseas, and in the early 1980s, when he was in his second year of high school, he was sent to a private boarding school in Queensland.

‘The head housemaster, he was quite disciplined and regimented. I got caned off him a couple of times … I made some good friends, [but] I didn’t like …. I hated boarding school. I hated it.’

Max’s housemaster used to invite boys into his room at night for a chat, and when they were there, he gave them rum and cokes to drink. On one of these occasions, when Max was 14 or 15, the housemaster spoke to him about ‘entering his sexual prime’. He talked about masturbation and ejaculation, and then pulled Max’s pants down and masturbated him.

Max never spoke to anyone about the abuse. The head housemaster was not someone that Max felt you could approach if you had anything to report.

‘It happened … I just remember running out and I never went back to his room … And then he left. He left that year and he went to [another school, and then another one].’ As an adult, Max did some research and discovered that the housemaster had taken early retirement from the final school.

After the sexual abuse, Max’s school grades dropped, ‘big time’. He also began drinking excessively. ‘From when I was in Year 11, 12, [I] started sneaking out, down into the city and all that and going, yeah …’ During the school holidays, ‘Mum and Dad noticed that I was getting really bad, getting very drunk and coming home all hours, to the [point] where they grounded me’.

Max told the Commissioner, ‘I didn’t process what happened to me at school. I never spoke about it. The day that I finished school, I just … I left everyone. I just got away and I didn’t contact a lot of my schoolmates for years to come afterwards. I wanted nothing to do with it’. After he left school, Max went travelling. He then returned home and started a successful career as a tradesman.

One reason he never spoke about the abuse is that ‘no one ever asked me. So I just kept it there and I went through so much doubt of myself. “Why did I let it happen?” I just went through major doubts’.

He began to see a psychiatrist regarding the developmental disorders he has been diagnosed with, and this was ‘the first time someone had asked me that question … I just broke down … and that’s sort of how it all came out’. Once his story came out, it was ‘a load off my shoulders’.

Max’s partner accompanied him to his session at the Royal Commission, and she commented, ‘It was one incident that has affected his life. But in ways it hasn’t, because he’s sort of pushed [it] in the back of his mind all those years, and went and travelled. He’s hard-working, honest, reliable. He’s done all that. Yeah, just a good person that was unfortunately mistreated at this [school]’.

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