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Wayne Christopher's story

Wayne had an unhappy home life as a child in Sydney’s northern beaches. His dad worked long hours, and was rarely at home. Both his mother and brother were violent towards him.

‘I never saw love or effective communication in my home, and never felt loved. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was told many times by my mother that I was a mistake, that she had never wanted children, and regretted having us.’

Wayne feels this environment ‘primed me for an encounter with a person who seemed to care about me, and wanted to spend time with me. My parents are as much to blame as the man involved in the abuse’.

When Wayne was around eight years old, he met Stuart Branson, a student teacher at his state primary school. ‘I am not sure how or why, as it is about 40 years ago now, but I invited him home. I can only assume now, as an adult, that he offered me friendship and love that I lacked in daily life.’

It was the mid-1970s, and Branson quickly befriended Wayne’s family. He ‘would call on me in the evenings, often when I was already in bed. My mother would get me out of bed and allow him to visit with me.

‘These days that would be considered quite unusual. I am not sure why it was not unusual then. Sitting side by side on a couch in my pyjamas, possibly watching television, he would slip his hand into my pyjama pants fly and fondle me’.

These visits continued for a while, until Wayne refused to sit next to Branson. ‘I have no recollection of what other abuses might have occurred during those years, particularly as I hit puberty. It seems likely that other abuses may have occurred, but my mind has erased the memory.’

When Wayne was 15, he moved away with his mother. He missed his Sydney life, and wanted to return. Branson was the only adult there he could go to live with, as his father had died a few years earlier.

As Wayne discussed his potential move back to the city to live with Branson, memories of the abuse returned. ‘I told her of the abuse, and her response was to call me a liar and belt me about the head for my trouble. I then ceased all contact with him, although I believe that my mother remained in touch.’

As a teenager, Wayne was confused about his sexuality, and acted out. He describes himself as being an ‘exhibitionist’, who displayed multiple sexually inappropriate behaviours. ‘I feel I was railing against the idea of being perceived as gay, and striking back in the only way I could. I had very little understanding of what I was doing, and very little control over it.’

Wayne sought assistance from counsellors and friends, but didn’t find the support he needed. ‘Nothing gave me clarity or the ability to control myself, yet I was desperate for some answer. I was quite angry, completely lonely, and very frightened.’

He now believes ‘such counselling should be conducted by survivors themselves, since they have an implicit understanding of the effects of child abuse. An individual who has not experienced child abuse is not able to understand the complex nuances of the aftermath, and the struggle within the victim's mind’.

This confusion about his sexuality continued into his adulthood, and contributed to the failure of his first marriage. ‘I have survived my experience of child abuse largely on my own through grit and determination and the overwhelming desire to not let “them” win.’ His second wife knows about the abuse, and is very supportive.

In the mid-1990s, it occurred to Wayne that Branson may still be working with children, so he made a police report at his local station. He was told ‘unless I could recall specific times, dates, durations, and locations, nothing could be formally done in regards to charges being brought. But it could be put on record and a warning given, particularly since he was a teacher’.

Wayne remembers that giving his statement caused ‘the same feelings and emotions’ as when the abuse occurred. When he tried to follow up the investigation, the police said his statement had been lost. They asked him to give his statement again, but he declined. He has never reported the sexual abuse to the school, or sought compensation.

Recently Wayne’s wife found some articles saying that Branson had been accused of child sex offences in Australia. He realised, ‘I was probably one of his first victims, if not the very first. How many other victims could I have saved if I'd had the ability to expose him, or if my mother had believed me?’

Branson went on to teach children in Asia, and was suspected of similar offences there. It appears he was never charged in any country, and died by suicide while overseas.

Wayne has difficulties with the stigma he feels is associated with being a victim of child sexual abuse, and the idea some people have that victims will become offenders. He is also concerned that children, particularly teenagers, may falsely accuse teachers and other adults of being paedophiles, and that this may have severe ramifications for people wrongly accused.

He told the Royal Commission, ‘I consider myself as “recovered” as I ever will be. The one remaining trace after almost 40 years is an inherent distrust of people. I believe firmly that, given the opportunity, anyone will betray a friend or family member, if it suits their own self-interest’.

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