‘When I was in class I was waiting for a call or dreading to face the door.’
Sven’s father was a ‘bombastic man’ who moved around for work, and his mother was ‘seen and not heard’. His parents argued often and had an ‘on again, off again’ relationship, and were often absent from the home. As the only child Sven felt lonely and vulnerable.
In the mid-1970s the family moved to suburban Perth. At 10 years of age Sven started at a government primary school in the area, and felt like an ‘outcast’ because he didn’t know anyone.
On his first day Sven was called to the office of Mr Oakes , the school’s deputy principal, and asked to sing to see if he would be suitable for the choir. He was told he had made the choir and was excited to participate. Oakes said he would have to stay back for ‘extended hours’ to practice.
Sven was sexually abused by Oakes several times a week over a three year period. He was often called out of class on the PA system to Oakes’s office or went to the bathrooms with Oakes for this reason. The deputy also fondled him in class while pretending to help him with his work.
Oakes would create other situations to abuse Sven, getting him to carry items to other teachers or help set up equipment, using ‘whatever chance he could get’.
Sven’s father worked long hours so he was dropped to school early, before the teachers arrived.
He didn’t want Oakes to use this time to abuse him. ‘I found myself a nice little hiding spot in the guys’ loo, above the labs. I would sit there and watch the teachers arrive in order until there was enough teachers and kids on the premises.’
The students noticed Sven’s relationship with Oakes and labelled him a ‘teacher’s pet’. He felt more of an outcast than he did when he first arrived to the school. When the teasing and the abuse became too much he began to truant from most classes to retreat to his hiding spot.
Sven didn’t feel he could tell anyone about the abuse, as Oakes said that if he did disclose things would be even more uncomfortable for him.
When Sven was 11 years old he decided to tell his father about the abuse but was shocked to find Oakes in his backyard with his father, talking about his truancy from school and his poor grades. Being upset that Oakes had started to ‘ingratiate’ himself with the family he couldn’t tell his father what was happening.
As Sven’s parents were away a lot his care during school holidays became an issue. His father liked the idea of Oakes taking care of Sven while he worked, and so he was sent to the deputy’s home.
Oakes had a family of his own so it was ‘no problem’ for Sven to be babysat there. On these occasions, Oakes always found a way to ensure his wife and children were engaged elsewhere so the abuse could continue. Sven felt that the situation was ‘taken out of his hands'.
After Sven left the primary school Oakes tried to pursue him once or twice, but he felt that Oakes was more interested in the younger students.
After Sven turned 13 he never saw Oakes again. His grades had already began to slip when he was 10, but they continued to drop further in high school. He couldn’t read, and developed anger issues in his teens. Still feeling like an outcast and often acting out, he left school when he was 14 years old.
‘At the end of those three years, to be expected to start high school I just had no tools to do so … I was too far behind to catch up. I felt like I needed to be out of the school system … Away from that.’
Throughout his teenage years and adulthood Sven has had significant anger issues. He suffers from flashbacks and nightmares, and has abused alcohol and drugs for several years to ‘self-medicate’.
Sven struggles with relationships and has intimacy problems. He has since learnt how to read, but has very low self-esteem which has affected his work ethic and has had ‘very limited’ work opportunities.
In the mid-1980s, Sven called into the Oakes’s home and spoke to Mrs Oakes about his abuse. She was sympathetic and told him that Oakes had fled the country with multiple charges of child sexual abuse pending.
Sven reported his perpetrator to the police in the mid-1990s. He was told that ‘nothing could be done’ because Oakes was overseas and couldn’t be extradited back to Australia.
After this Sven engaged with the victims of crime compensation scheme, receiving a sum of $10,000 which he believes he was ‘forced to take’. He contacted the Western Australian Department of Education and was disgusted that they wouldn’t discuss his case. He would like an acknowledgement from the department for his abuse and the impact it has had on his ‘whole life’.