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Travis Vernon's story

‘I just can’t fathom why they’d do that shit? ... I don’t know where society’s gone wrong, do you know what I mean? ... It’s just like why has society gone that way, where they have to take their sexual frustration out on kids?’

Travis grew up in regional Victoria. His father was hard to talk to, and his mum had a couple of ‘nervous breakdowns’. In the mid-1970s, when he was around 12 years old, he was caught breaking and entering. The judge at the Children’s Court recommended he be sent away from the area to avoid being influenced into further crime, so he was sent to board at a ‘so-called Christian’ college in a small country town.

While at the school Travis was subjected to several sexual assaults by the principal, Mr George. He told the Commissioner how George took him into the office, and ‘he used to bend you over the table and play certain – he liked to pull his trousers down ... I just don’t like being forced into something like that. I didn’t even understand it’.

Travis was left totally confused, as ‘I was quite ignorant actually, about sexual things’. He didn’t ‘know if anyone else went through what I did, but I heard whispers of it [from] other students’.

He spoke to a friend about what had happened, but they have since lost touch. ‘It would be interesting to have a reunion just without teachers there, and just have the students, and find out who else actually did get abused there.’ Overall ‘the whole year there was like a fucking nightmare ... I just don’t understand people’.

He returned home and started at the local high school, but found it hard ‘to reassociate with people’ and soon left.

‘I just couldn’t go outside some days ... This fear of going outside. I locked myself in the house ... I’d go home and I’d just lock myself, isolate myself’.

After a few other jobs, he ended up working in construction. ‘I like the physical work. I think you need that, I need that, to get that frustration, that hurt of out of me. To exert yourself, so you put yourself to sleep.’

Travis used ‘alcohol, and some drugs’ to cope too, to ‘try and deal with it that way’. He has had good support from his siblings and, although they don’t know the details of the abuse, ‘it’s good to know some people do care out there’.

His experiences have left him unable to maintain lasting relationships. ‘I had a lot of partners, a lot, a lot of them actually. Probably more like a gigolo to a degree, I suppose. Now I’m calling myself a cad ... It’s just hard finding someone you can communicate to. It’s hard, it’s the hardest thing in life.’

Travis still finds it difficult to deal with people in authority.

‘I have this anguish towards people with authority, because they think they can get away with this and that ... If we don’t have justice in society, people think they’re untouchable.’

After being abused he has ‘gone away from Christianity ... I just thought the whole thing stinks’.

He has not reported George to police, and does not wish to do so, as he feels ‘without wasting taxpayer’s money on the crap, I think George’s going to get his just desserts at the hand of God’.

Travis would like to try to meet more people who attended the school, to ‘just tell them about it and that – and just having him put on Facebook, that’d be enough I think ... Humiliate him, and make him hide in shame, like he’s done to us’.

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