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Raymond John's story

For most of his high school years Raymond attended a Presbyterian college in Melbourne. In the 1970s he was sexually abused by one of his 3rd Form teachers, Mr Pilger. At the beginning of the year, Pilger had approached Raymond regarding his poor grades, and offered to assist him by providing one-on-one tutoring outside regular school hours.

Raymond struggled academically and was grateful for this extra help, as he needed good marks to get into an external study program. He therefore attended the school on Saturday afternoon in his school uniform, as was agreed, to study with Pilger.

At the end of the first session Pilger made Raymond stand on a chair, and he pulled down his pants and molested him. Pilger smelled of alcohol, as he often did. This abuse happened every week after the tutoring session, and Raymond eventually realised that Pilger was masturbating as he molested him.

Raymond believes that others at the school would have been aware of Pilger’s drinking, and suspects staff may have known about his sexual abuse of children.

He did not report the abuse himself at the time for a number of reasons. These included feelings of shame and embarrassment, concern that he would not be believed, and fear that disclosing would jeopardise his study plans. Discipline was harsh at the school, ‘and the fear factor of a punitive thing if you spoke out about something, that entered your mind as well’. He also knew that other children who had reported similar abuse had been stigmatised in the community.

The abuse ended after two terms. Raymond left the school in Year 11 and ‘just moved on – that was the best way for me to deal with it’. He always tried to keep the abuse in ‘the back box ... I suppose for some people that’s a way of dealing with it a bit’ and kept himself busy with tertiary studies, work, and caring for his wife and family.

After hearing about other child sexual abuse matters at the college many years later, he called the school and spoke with their counsellor. She told him he was the second person to speak to her about Pilger that day.

Learning he was not Pilger’s only victim provoked ‘mixed emotions. One was, you sort of sit back and put the other hat on and go, had I of spoken up would there have been other victims? But the other side for me was, I wasn’t the only one. And there was a bit of a relief in that ... I wasn’t the abnormal one that was targeted’.

The school offered him an apology, but he did not accept this as he does not think it is the institution’s fault. He does think he might like to take the current principal to where the abuse occurred, to show him where it happened and to help him understand the seriousness of child sexual abuse.

He has connected with a legal firm regarding civil action, but has not reported to police as Pilger is deceased. ‘The bloke’s dead. You can’t kick a dead person.’ He has now disclosed the abuse to his wife of over 20 years, and had a couple of sessions with a psychologist.

Raymond is not sure that further counselling would help him at this stage, if it entailed talking more about the abuse. ‘I had it pretty much in the back of my mind for thirty-plus years. And I’d like to think I can maybe stick it back there. Whether I can or not, I don’t know.’

He knows the memory of it may come back even if he tries to hide everything away again. ‘It might, it might not. What do you do? It’s a bit like the bomb squad, when they’ve got the box there. Do we poke the box, or do we not poke the box? ... We’ll just prod it and see what happens. And that’s what I’m afraid of you know, do we untie the bow and let it all out, or just leave it?’

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