It was lunch time. Another primary school student came up to Simeon and told him Mr Richards wanted to see him. Simeon’s immediate thought was ‘What have I done?’ He went to the classroom where Mr Richards, a very young teacher, was waiting for him. He told Simeon to take his penis out from his shorts. Simeon, nine years old at the time, did what he was told.
‘One of the worst aspects to this … That moment of the abuse in the classroom, that millisecond of time where I cannot pinpoint whether he actually touched my penis or not ... it’s just white light. It’s as though every aspect of my life, everything in the universe, happened in a millisecond and my life changed in that millisecond.’
Mr Richards offered Simeon some money but he refused it.
Simeon grew up in regional Queensland in the 1950s and 1960s. He attended the local primary school. He believes he was primed by Mr Richards a week before the abuse. Simeon wasn’t well one day and told to lie down on a couch that was near the staffroom. Mr Richards saw him there and rubbed Simeon’s stomach, ‘which was soothing … which was great, which was caring … all good. But … in hindsight…’
A week later, after the abuse, Simeon was terrified of Mr Richards. That day Mr Richards told him to come back and see him after school. Simeon didn’t go but had to leave the school grounds undetected.
‘I was absolutely petrified [to disclose what happened]. So scared to the point of wanting to vomit.’ But the following day Simeon couldn’t handle going to school. He told his mother what happened. She said she would tell his father but, in the meantime, to go to school as normal. Simeon got halfway to school but ‘the fear was just too great’. He went back home. Simeon took the day off and later, at school, Mr Richards asked his older sister where he was. She told him he was sick.
Shortly afterwards, Simeon’s father went to see the principal. ‘I remember standing outside the principal’s office’, Simeon said, ‘very scared and lonely … a little boy in a huge, long empty hallway because everybody else is in class … I eventually get called in and my father’s in there, they’re sitting around a big table with a number of … the more senior, male teachers … I had to tell them what had happened.’
Afterwards, at home, Simeon can remember his father saying that the matter had been dealt with and that ‘There will be no more talking about it, within this family, again. It’s over’.
Although Simeon’s version of events was believed, Mr Richards continued teaching at the school. He was also sometimes called upon to teach Simeon’s class. No one at the school checked if Simeon was okay. No one acknowledged the courage it had taken to report the abuse in the first place.
‘The after-effects are devastating. I’ve lived a half-life since then.’
Richards started to intimidate Simeon both in the classroom and in the school yard. On one occasion, he stood Simeon up and humiliated him in front of the class. ‘He stood me up and … said vile, vile things into my ear.’ Simeon didn’t report this to anyone. He was ‘shit scared’. He also didn’t have the language to describe what was going on. He didn’t know the word ‘intimidation’, for example.
‘I just can’t fathom it. I was left alone. Nowhere to turn … and that’s how I feel about my life … I’m an island. There’s me against the world. I just can’t solve it … I’ve been getting … intensive psychotherapy for 20 years.’
The following year Mr Richards didn’t return to the school. Simeon doesn’t know what happened but a couple of years later he saw Richard’s picture in the newspaper. Richards was heading a youth group. He felt Richards had been given ‘free rein’ to continue his ‘activities’.
Simeon left his home town as soon as he could and went travelling for several years. After he returned, he worked and then started a business with his wife, which they have been running for 20 years.
‘I’ve been suicidal since I was 19 … Although I don’t think I want to kill myself because that teacher abused me … that’s not the form that it takes. It’s what happened then [that] seeps into the tiniest, tiniest veins of your system …
‘You’re trying to live your life. You’d be talking to somebody and having what they think is just a happy conversation. And on your shoulder you’re thinking about suicide … And they wouldn’t have a clue … and yet you’re thinking about how you’re going to do it … It just sits there.’
Simeon feels that his relationships with people have been affected ‘in so many different ways’. He says therapy hasn’t helped. But drugs and alcohol have. Apart from his therapists he has told very few people about the abuse.
Leading up to his private session, Simeon reflected a lot about the events around the abuse. ‘It only occurred to me yesterday that he stole something from me … I can’t get it back … Everything is missed. Nothing can be done. It’s the unfairness I think. That’s the word that keeps coming up in my mind, is the unfairness. The unfairness of how it was dealt with. The unfairness that it happened to me. The unfairness of how it’s impacted and the ongoingness of it, it’s just all so unfair … nobody really gets it because it’s such … a personal thing, a personal pain. And you can’t share pain, it’s stuck within you.’