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Scott Matthew's story

‘The home life that I had was unstable, unsafe and abusive, and my life in boarding school was unsafe and abusive. The very least I should have received was a safe and attentive environment to grow up in, but no one ever realised or ever did anything about the abuse.’

Born in the early 1950s, Scott had barely learned to walk before his father started bashing him. From then on it was a regular occurrence in the family home for Scott’s dad to lose his temper and punch or throw his son. So it should have come as a reprieve when Scott, aged about five, was sent away to an independent boarding school in New South Wales.

But there was no reprieve, only more violence. At the school, Scott said, ‘if we didn’t toe the line we were embarrassed, intimidated and punished physically’. There was sexual abuse too, inflicted by one of the teachers. Though Scott is unsure of the man’s name – he thinks it might have been Mr Newstead – he has a vivid memory of the man’s appearance.

‘Round face, teeth like a piano … stomach would always be hanging out, didn’t dress properly, belt wasn’t on properly, always tobacco, cigarette stains on his hand.’

The sexual abuse began when Scott was in Grade 5, and it continued several times a week for much of that year and the next. It began with Newstead watching Scott and the other boys in the shower. Then Newstead started washing Scott himself, then he started taking Scott into his bed at night.

‘There was a lot that happened there with him’, Scott said, ‘and I don’t really want to share that’.

Scott didn’t tell anyone about the abuse. This was partly because Newstead had a ‘dominating’ manner and often made threats, saying ‘you didn’t tell your parents, did you?’ But it was also because Scott simply never had an opportunity to tell someone who would listen.

‘My experience might have been quite different to others, where they had the opportunity to report, where kids go to school in the day and then they go home. They’ve got some breathing space and have an opportunity to discuss some things with their parents or with someone that’s reasonable.

‘I didn’t. I was locked in there. And I would stay there the weekends and over Christmas breaks as well, and there might only have been three or four of us. You were there for three or four weeks. I got no break.’

The abuse ended when Scott moved to another school in Year 7. He spent the next few years plotting how to escape from school and home. In his late teens he achieved his goal and started work. He tried a few different jobs, travelled, enjoyed relationships with ‘some nice girlfriends’ and never mentioned a word of the abuse to anyone.

Scott married and raised children. His family knew that he had some problems but they didn’t know why. They accepted his overprotectiveness, his dislike of violence and confrontation, his fear and his trouble sleeping.

‘I go to sleep, I have to have someone there. [If] I don’t have anyone in the house all the lights and the TV are on and I’ll sleep with a knife under the bed and all the doors are locked.’

The first time Scott ever mentioned the abuse to anyone was just a few months before his session with the Royal Commission. Motivated by some of the stories of child sexual abuse that he saw in the media, he decided to contact a counsellor.

It was easier said than done. For months Scott struggled, dialling the phone number then hanging up before the call went through, then dialling again. Eventually he saw it through to the end.

‘I guess that’s my own character. I’m pretty determined, which I have been my whole life. I don’t like to fail at anything that I do.’

Scott still hasn’t told his family about the abuse – and he’s not sure that he ever will – but he’s grateful for them and credits them as the reason he’s been able to manage the horrors of his childhood and build a happy and successful life.

‘My kids are great, my family is terrific, my wife’s perfect. It’s lovely having a supportive family. And my son often would say to me “Dad” – he would talk to me like a father, I’d be the son. He’d say “Mum, you go away and Dad you sit here, you’re not to move, not to get up for anything. I’m going to talk to you”.’

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