Almost every day Mr Devere would fondle Tristan’s genitals through his school uniform while Tristan stood at his desk to have his work marked. It was the mid-1980s and Tristan was around 11 years old when this abuse began, and it continued for a next few years. He saw Mr Devere doing the same thing to other boys at the small government school in regional Victoria too.
Having been taught to respect and obey teachers, Tristan felt powerless to object to this abuse. He was aware of how well-liked and well-respected Mr Devere was, and this made the situation confusing.
During this time, Tristan was also being sexually abused by his older cousin Gary, abuse which had started a few years before. Tristan told the Commissioner ‘I suppose I thought it was all normal’. Even so, he felt very uncomfortable with Mr Devere touching him.
Gary had warned Tristan not to speak about the things he did to him, and this discouraged him from reporting either of his abusers. His parents were fighting constantly and his father was an alcoholic, so this made it even more difficult for him to approach them about these matters.
Eventually his parents split and he moved away from his mother. After changing schools he had no more contact with Mr Devere.
Tristan told the Commissioner that the abuse impacted on his school performance, and he did not complete his studies. ‘I went into another dimension from there, going through teenage years.’ As a young adult he used drugs and alcohol to cope, but has not done so for a long time now. He is still somewhat wary of authority figures, and has avoided excelling at his work in case he draws attention to himself.
Throughout his life he has been suspicious of men and has overreacted when they have shown any physical signs of affection or friendship. ‘An incident happened at work a few years ago ... Bloke put his arm round me and I just wanted to belt him straight away.’
In more recent times Tristan saw a newspaper article stating that Mr Devere had been charged with multiple child sex offences. He has not yet reported the abuse he experienced from the teacher to police, nor the abuse perpetrated by his cousin. His wife knows about this abuse now, and he feels her support has helped him be a better man.