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Roland Michael's story

Roland’s father was a hardworking war veteran ‘who couldn’t really show emotion, couldn’t really tell us kids that he loved us’, while his mother had a severe chronic illness. Growing up in regional Victoria, most of his free time was spent fishing, catching rabbits and keeping horses. Overall, ‘even though I had horrific things happen in my childhood, it was a great childhood’.

In the early 1970s Roland commenced his education at the local state school. The school’s only teacher was Mr Parsons, a ‘hard, strict, barbaric’ man, who regularly beat both the male and female students. ‘He was very military, there was a lot of physical abuse to kids. It was amazing.’

One day, when Roland was in kindergarten, he was alone in the classroom. Parsons came into the room and pushed him down onto the desk.

‘The next thing I know he’s pulled me pants down, me trousers down, and me underpants ... and his got his pants down and was sexually penetrating me.’

Roland remembers Parsons ‘making a sexual gratification noise’ while Roland was telling him to ‘stop, stop, you’re hurting me’.

On another occasion that year Parsons drove Roland home when he was sick, and fondled his genitals while they were in the car. Parsons was Roland’s teacher for another couple of years but never sexually abused him again.

Roland did not disclose the abuse at the time. He knew that the mother of other children repeatedly physically assaulted by Parsons had complained about this abuse to the education department, and that no action had been taken.

His own parents also were aware of Parson’s aggression, because of an artwork he had come home with. ‘I had this drawing. It was only a big bloody oblong head and a body, a couple of arms and legs ... There was no ears, there was no eyes, there was no nose, no mouth, and the whole head or face was red.’

When his mother asked what he had depicted, Roland said, ‘That’s Mr Parsons ... when he gets angry he goes red’.

He remembers ‘breaking down crying’ about the physical abuse Parsons inflicted. ‘My father went up to visit him. I don’t know what he said, but the physical abuse stopped after that. So knowing my father, he would have had him by the throat and might have given him a few in the ribs.

'If I had of told me father about the sexual abuse … he would have killed him, and it would have got worse in my life.’

The physical, psychological and sexual abuse by Parsons caused Roland to hate school and lose motivation. He wonders if his brother, who was also taught by Parsons, was sexually abused too as he killed himself in his 20s.

Roland said he had always felt like a ‘lone wolf’, and like he didn’t fit into society. He was angry and drank heavily, using alcohol to mask his problems, and feels that the sexual abuse he experienced has impacted on his relationships and family. ‘That’s where you’ve got to feel sorry for people’s wives, ex-wives, partners ... That’s the thing that really I don’t think comes out, do you know what I mean?’

His first disclosure was to his then fiancée in the 1990s. Although he has accessed counselling at various times, it was only recently that Roland discussed the abuse in this context.

Around a decade ago Roland gave a written statement to police but did not feel able to pursue the matter further.

Parsons was convicted of sex offences against other children and jailed. Some years later Roland saw Parsons out of prison and watching children playing, and this sighting prompted him to go back to the police and make a second statement. Criminal proceedings for offences against Roland are now underway.

As yet, Roland had not sought compensation or reported the matter to the education department. Now in his 50s, he writes poetry, attends a men’s support group, enjoys gardening and is working on raising awareness of child sexual abuse.

In particular, he would like to see more severe sentences for people committing these crimes. ‘These perpetrators, paedophiles, they destroy so many lives and they get a smack on the hand. They get four or five years and then they’re out in society like nothing happened. That’s the bit that pisses me off.’

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