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Reggie William's story

Reggie had always done well academically and athletically. He was a ‘straight A+ student’ in most subjects and was involved in a number of sports. In the 1970s, when he entered Year 7 in a government high school in suburban Sydney, he was immediately ‘befriended’ by a teacher, Mr Chalmers, who also coached sports and drama – ‘It was perfect for him because he could see naked boys all the time [in the change rooms and showers], and touch kids. He was just a bastard’.

Halfway through that year, Chalmers started to sexually abuse Reggie in a school storeroom. He would place Reggie on his lap and stroke his genitals through his pants. Reggie was confused and uncomfortable, and felt this wasn’t right, but wasn’t able to get away. He started to get an erection, and this confused him even further as he did not know much about his body and didn’t know what was happening.

The abuse became frequent. ‘He probably touched me thousands of times’, Reggie said. It took place in the school grounds, and often in the presence of other students who gave him a nickname. ‘The kids all knew he was a paedophile ... That nickname just tore me to shreds even further, and it’s been really hard to live with this.’

Reggie also saw Chalmers grab another student on the buttocks as they were heading to class. The student looked uneasy and moved away.

Chalmers recognised that Reggie had sporting potential and was a good swimmer, and would take him for private coaching at a local pool at times when there were no other patrons around. While they were in the water Chalmers would start kissing him and fondling his penis inside his bathers. Afterwards he would shower naked in front of Reggie, grabbing him and kissing his face. They would drive back to the school and Chalmers would act as if nothing had happened.

When Reggie was in his mid teens, Chalmers held a party for students at the house where he lived with his wife and children, and their parents had to sign a letter of consent as alcohol would be provided.

Late in the evening Chalmers took Reggie into another room and started to kiss and fondle him, despite the fact that his family was nearby. One of Reggie’s friends walked in and interrupted this incident, and they all returned to the party. Chalmers then groped another boy in front of everyone, which shocked them all.

Reggie and some other students told a female teacher at the school what Chalmers was doing, but she ‘just swept it under the carpet’ and said that he was being friendly. He did not tell anyone else as he was too afraid and embarrassed.

Reggie’s marks dropped and his behaviour deteriorated. ‘Unfortunately, towards the end of my schooling I become aggressive, rebellious, because I found if I got people to dislike me they wouldn’t interfere with me.’

Chalmers finally asked one day, ‘How come you’re walking around like you’re so arrogant and rude?’ Reggie replied, ‘Why do you think I’m like this?’, and was glad that the teacher had ‘taken a dislike’ to him. Chalmers left the school when Reggie was in Year 10.

Around the same time, Reggie was also sexually abused by his local tennis coach who showed him pornographic images and masturbated him.

Two decades after the abuse, Reggie disclosed to his GP and also a friend who was a lawyer. Both told him to just forget about it, so he stopped discussing it with anyone. Reggie recently told his mother. She was supportive, remembering her suspicions about Chalmers at the time.

‘I sort of moved on with my life. It seems as I got older it’s become more of a problem for me, I don’t know why.’ Publicity about the Royal Commission ‘just sent me nuts ‘cause you suppress these thoughts and you just live with it and deal with it, but when it’s in your face every day the nightmares come back and you can’t sleep, [and] start drinking really heavily’.

After contacting the Commission he made a statement to police, and believes they are close to making an arrest based on the evidence provided by him and another victim.

The abuse Reggie experienced made him confused about his sexuality as a young adult. ‘I didn’t know if I was a gay man, I didn’t know what was going on ... I was lost.’ He has now been married for over 20 years but decided against having children as ‘I was too worried they’d suffer the same thing’ as he did growing up.

Diagnosed with clinical depression he has contemplated suicide numerous times. However, he is currently ‘medicated properly’ and for the most part is ‘coping quite well’.

‘I just wish I could make the nightmares go away. The irony about the whole thing is the nightmares never include this guy ... just psychological trauma, everything’s traumatic and frightening and I feel like I wake up and someone’s got their hands around my throat.’

‘I can’t breathe. Eventually I come out and I’m just manic. And that’s when I drink ... The only think that will stop it is straight vodka. I just pour it straight down my throat, it washes it away.’

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