Growing up, Nate’s family moved around New South Wales as his father travelled for work. In 1983, Nate was 10 years old and had been at a Catholic primary school for two years when he was sexually abused by teacher, Paul Chapman.
One of Nate’s school projects was to make a timber model and Chapman, though not the class teacher, offered to help. On the first day Nate stayed back after school, Chapman rubbed noses with him and kissed him on the forehead. On the drive home, Chapman began stroking Nate’s leg and fondling his genitals.
The abuse took place over about six months and occurred in the classroom, the church adjoining the school and once on a camping trip. On that occasion, Nate had been sharing with a boy who became unwell and Chapman suggested he come into his tent. Nate fell asleep but awoke to find Chapman removing his clothes and trying to masturbate him. Nate kept pushing Chapman’s hand away until eventually the teacher stopped and then masturbated himself until he ejaculated. As soon as the sun came up, Nate left the tent and on the way home sat in the back seat of Chapman’s car without speaking.
In hindsight, Nate thought Chapman had groomed his parents as well as him. He was always friendly and helpful and drove Nate from school, after which he’d come into the house and stay for an hour having a cup of tea and speaking with Nate’s mother.
After the abuse occurred, Nate couldn’t tell his parents, and he did his best to push memories of it away. ‘After the abuse happened, I buried everything and put it in the back of my mind’, he said. ‘And I’d be distant. I can’t explain but yeah, I was more distant. I was quiet. School was a big issue especially with male teachers.’
Nate said male teachers suddenly appeared as ‘big and scary looking’. He left school in the middle of Year 11 and worked in retail and other jobs, marrying young and going on to have two children. He’d been married for 19 years but hadn’t disclosed the abuse to his wife until two years before speaking with the Royal Commission. ‘I just blacked it out’, he said. ’Put it in the back of my mind and it was gone.’
News of the Royal Commission and ‘all the stuff that was happening on the news’ prompted Nate to disclose the abuse to his local doctor in 2013. Since then, he told his wife and received support from a community organisation. They referred him to a counsellor but he found the experience ‘odd’ and ‘wasn’t sure about it’, especially when the counsellor ‘waved her fingers in front of my eyes and I had to follow’. Someone suggested another avenue of counselling which he is currently considering. He is also in discussion with lawyers about making a civil claim against the Church.
Nate said his wife and children were his sources of strength and it was they who kept him going. His main purpose in life is ‘just being there for them’ in a way he felt his own parents had not.
He hopes that ‘in this day and age this sort of thing shouldn’t happen’, and wants to add his account to others’ experiences.
‘Putting my story out there, it’s something I need to do’.