Miles’ parents migrated from Europe to Australia in the 1950s. Miles was born a few years later and ‘grew up an only child in a strict, traditional family’. He attended a state school in Sydney where, at first, he enjoyed his time and excelled academically. Then, just after his 14th birthday, Miles fell victim to paedophile teacher, John Norman, and everything changed.
Reading from a written statement, Miles said, ‘As my teacher I believed that Norman controlled my future, in that he controlled my marks. At the impressionable age of 14 I believed that a bad mark would have a negative impact upon my future job prospects’.
Miles described Norman as a violent disciplinarian who cunningly flattered and manipulated his ‘favourite’ students. He would also ‘frequently attempt to introduce or interweave a sexual element to whatever he was talking about’. These discussions usually took place in a secluded classroom where Norman conducted lessons for groups of six to eight boys.
‘The room could be locked from the inside, and Norman took advantage of this. He would lock the door to the room when assaulting me. The first act of sexual abuse occurred in the room a few days after my 14th birthday.’
Miles explained how, while threatening him with physical violence, Norman committed ‘numerous acts of indecent assault, forced anal intercourse and forced felatio … These crimes were perpetrated against me on a regular basis. On some occasions there were other students present during the abuse’.
Rumours about Norman’s activities were already widespread at the school, so as the weeks went by Miles found himself the subject of vicious gossip. ‘I became recognised around the school as one of Norman’s targets. I was immediately ostracised and marked as a poofter. I was publicly bullied, ridiculed and mistreated.’
Miles’ academic performance dropped. He became anxious and distrustful, wracked by shame and the fear that he would be ‘found out’.
‘Norman warned me that if I ever told anyone about the abuse my parents would be called to the school and would be told about what had happened … He warned that I would be taken away from my parents and put into foster care. He warned that everyone would know what had happened and that everything would be reported in the newspapers and on television.’
After several months, Miles’ ‘worst fears became realised’. The parents of another boy, whom Norman was also abusing, told Miles’ parents about the abuse. Miles’ father complained to the headmaster who offered to move Miles to another school but took no action against Norman. After that, Norman continued to abuse Miles for a while longer and even bragged that he was ‘untouchable’. The abuse ended some time later when Norman ‘became more interested in other students’.
Meanwhile, Miles’ father blamed him for what had happened. ‘He assumed I was guilty of some wrongdoing or was a willing participant. I was saddled with that undeserved guilt which I could not shake for the rest of my life.’
Miles described how the ongoing effects of the abuse on his mental health robbed him of career opportunities, damaged his relationships and left him feeling worthless, angry, fearful and sometimes suicidal.
‘Due to the enormous burden of shame attached to my abuse, I have often thought of taking my own life … Until the age of 30 I engaged in reckless, life-endangering behaviour. I would purposely go to Kings Cross, staying out till three or four AM, looking for trouble. I would walk down the darkest, most badly lit alleys in the hope I would be confronted and killed.’
Miles never acted directly on his suicidal thoughts, or on the plans he made to murder Norman, and in the mid-80s he sought counselling and managed to ‘settle down’. Fifteen or so years later he read some articles in the newspaper about victims of child sexual abuse and, feeling inspired, reported Norman to the Department of Education and then to police.
Where Miles led, other victims followed, and when the police arrested Norman they charged him with more than 60 offences committed against numerous boys across a 30-year period. Miles said he was daunted by the prospect of appearing as a witness in court but ‘I had resolved in my mind that I would persevere through the court process at all costs to prevent Norman from harming other kids’.
In the end Miles’ worries proved unnecessary: Norman killed himself just before the trial.
Miles said that his father’s attitude towards him ‘softened’ towards the end of the old man’s life; and in recent years, Miles’ attitude towards himself has softened too. ‘I’ve now forgiven myself for what happened to me. I’ve finally accepted that I was not to blame for the abuse.’