‘I didn’t know that what I did wasn’t wrong. What he did was wrong, but I didn’t know that I wasn’t participating in something that was wrong. I didn’t participate in it, but I mean, I was there.’
Wilbur grew up on a farm, and was sent to board at a Queensland high school when he was 14. It was the late 1950s, and the school had around 600 students. Wilbur was frequently bullied by other students because of his small stature.
One of Wilbur’s teachers, Bill Squire, was in his mid-30s. He was responsible for looking after the boarders. The boys in Wilbur’s year slept two to a room, and Squire’s bedroom was in the middle of the dormitory.
Squire ‘liked little boys. He liked to show off what he had’. The boys had a common shower room, and ‘he used to go down there and strip himself off too. He’d go and shower with the boys’.
It was Wilbur’s first year at the school, and Squire would ‘come into my room, and then he’d run his hands up under the bed, and try and play with me ... I didn’t encourage him to do anything, but he did. And I suppose, he also tried to befriend me’.
Eventually, Squire would tell Wilbur to get out of bed and come down to his bedroom for a cup of coffee. ‘And that’s where he abused me, really.'
Squire would masturbate and ejaculate on Wilbur. 'The number of times there, I can’t remember. But there were a number of times like that.’
This abuse appears to have stopped after one of the prefects became aware of it. At some point, Wilbur was asked speak to police about Squire’s behaviour. He did so, but was never officially made aware of any outcome. He later heard that Squire went to jail for three years, but does not know for sure if this is the case.
The school never offered Wilbur any support. After he spoke to police, he was sent back to a different class. ‘There was no follow-up, none at all ... So when I got to the class, the only people I could talk to was the little boys.’
He told these boys that Squire’s semen had been on his clothing, and they gave him a nickname which related to this. Both students and lecturers continued to use this name for him the whole time he was at the school.
‘Little boys can hurt pretty well. And throw it at you all the time. So the ones that want to throw it at you, do, and the other people just use the word.’ Every time someone used this name, ‘You know what they’re talking about. Or do you know? You wonder how much it really means’.
Nobody ever told Wilbur ‘that I wasn’t wrong in this whole thing. So I just had to wear it’. He later found out that his parents had known about the abuse – ‘I’m not sure when they were told, or who told them ... I didn’t tell them, but the school did’. They had considered moving him from the school at the time, but did not ask him about it.
‘I didn’t know they were contemplating moving me. Then they decided that probably I was better off staying where I was.’ His parents had worried that changing schools ‘might have affected me more. They didn’t know. It’s hard to know what’s right to do’.
The abuse, and the bullying that resulted from it, continues to significantly affect Wilbur’s life. He left school without any friends. ‘You have this feeling ... I didn’t like to be known as “that person”.’ Going out into the world, ‘from that day on I had to be on my own’.
Although Wilbur eventually married, his wife left him many years ago. He was never able to disclose the abuse to her. After registering to meet with the Royal Commission, he told his adult son about these experiences.
Concern that others may find out about the abuse, and judge him badly because of it, has shaped Wilbur’s whole life. ‘Did they find out? How much do they know? You see, so that’s always just sitting there, looking at you.’
He has lived in a town near the school for many years, and a number of his old classmates are also living in the area.
‘I can’t be friends with them, because they’d all know.’
Wilbur ran several businesses, but lost the latest one due to his chronic kidney problems and other health issues. He is socially isolated, seeing people only when he has medical appointments.
Now that he is over 70, with failing health, Wilbur is reluctant to engage with any counselling or other support. Wilbur told the Commission he is not interested in compensation either. ‘I never thought of doing anything like that. All I wanted was some help, and it never ever came.’