Growing up in coastal Victoria, Pascale had a happy childhood. He and his brothers would have adventures along the peninsula and play cricket after school. Generally life was good. ‘Everything was pretty perfect. It was idyllic, an idyllic upbringing I’d call it.’
In the 1970s Pascale’s parents decided they would send him to a private Anglican school, which was a bus commute of over an hour each way. On 10-year-old Pascale’s first day at the new school his mother accidentally dressed him in the junior uniform, and he was mercilessly ridiculed by the other children. Fortunately, or so he thought, his teacher Denny Horton was very kind to him.
‘This guy, Denny Horton, was just really nice to me from the get go. Obviously I thought he was a good teacher, being nice to me.’
Over the following months of that first term, Horton would keep Pascale back after class on the pretext of helping him with his schoolwork.
It wasn’t long before the teacher began giving Pascale pornography and started masturbating in front of him, molesting him, and trying to force Pascale to perform oral sex. The abuse occurred on at least 20 occasions during that year. One time Horton lured Pascale to his home on the pretext of showing him his ‘pet birds’, which turned out to be his pornography collection.
At the time Pascale couldn’t bring himself to tell anyone about the abuse, however he did try to tell his mother by complaining ‘that I hated my teacher and that I didn’t want to go to school a lot of the time … So in that way indirectly I did. But no, it was too embarrassing’.
‘After that year of school with the abuse and stuff that happened, I completely changed in that year, if you can imagine. I suppose just the innocence was taken away. I suppose I was angrier and just really critical and stuff … Because it happened in a place of learning, I had trouble learning and became quite rebellious. That sort of went on for years.’
After that year, when Pascale had moved on to Grade 6, he avoided Horton at all costs, which resulted in Horton looking for any excuse to punish him.
‘It was like victimisation from that point on for the next two years. It was detentions and just, I don’t know, being followed around and waiting for me to make a mistake ... It was like punishment I suppose for not doing as I was told.’
Pascale’s academic performance began to suffer, he lost respect for authority, became rebellious and fought with his brothers. Eventually he left school to take on an apprenticeship and became involved with drugs and alcohol.
As a young adult, Pascale sought to escape his life by backpacking overseas. ‘I was away for four years and I think I wrote two letters to my mother in that time, and just sort of disappeared. And I was drinking and taking drugs and really destroying myself. But looking back on it, it was like a big escape from my whole life, and just trying to maybe rediscover myself.’
Eventually Pascale returned to Australia and worked hard to rebuild his life, acknowledging the impact that Horton’s abuse had on him.
‘It really has affected my whole life ... I reckon I’ve only just got myself together probably in the last 10 years … Now when I look back, kind of every bad thing that’s happened to me I can now link back to that.’
Pascale is now married to a supportive wife and has children of his own. ‘I’ve had children now and I believe I’m a really responsible and caring father. Love my wife, we’re really, really close. And we are a big team, we’re not separate parents. We think we’re pretty good. So I feel like I’ve sort of fallen apart and come completely undone and then rebuilt myself. And I feel quite happy with who I am now.’
Some years ago Pascale sought counselling but the experience was not helpful, and he feels he is better off managing his mental health on his own. He is making preliminary inquiries into pursuing a civil case against the school. His mother is now aware of Horton’s abuse and encouraged Pascale to talk to the Royal Commission.
Pascale approached the police to make a report about Horton and in the process discovered he had suicided in prison after being sentenced for abusing other boys. Although saddened to discover that other children had been abused, Pascale was relieved to learn he was not the only victim. He is also pleased to not have to go through a potentially traumatic criminal proceeding.
‘I was more than happy to go through a court case if he was still alive and do all the police stuff. But when I found out that he was dead I thought “Well there’s something I don’t really have to deal with in a court of law”. So I was quietly happy about that.’
‘Probably I am a little bit over paranoid, but I’m definitely not a helicopter parent with my kids. Even with what’s happened to me I think I could be a lot more of a nutcase than what I am with my own kids. But they know that they can talk to me about anything any time, and do. And I’m looking for those warning signs.’
‘I understand the world was a different place back then, and it was in the generation before that as well. It’s wrong what’s happened, but I know it’s gonna keep happening. It will just be hopefully better reported or better policed.’