Both his parents travelled a lot for work so, in the early 1960s when William was seven or eight, he was sent to an Anglican boarding school in regional Victoria. His brother, three years older, was already a student there.
William remained at the school for two years. It was a severe and strict environment, he said. That was why he didn’t tell anyone when he was raped by his housemaster in his second year. It didn’t really occur to him.
‘You were put into a world where it was a battle anyway, just for emotional love and attention, so you just … toughened up.’
Even today, William said, in an age when kids can much more easily maintain regular contact with their parents, he believes children in younger grades shouldn’t be sent to boarding school.
‘I think they’re too little and there’s no one there to look after them really.’
On the morning William was assaulted he woke up early in his dorm, looked out the window and immediately noticed what a beautiful morning it was. ‘That’s all I remember – a beautiful blue sky. And I just sat up in bed to look at it, looking at the sky because it was so beautiful.’
He was still looking when he noticed his housemaster, at a window of his room a short distance away, beckoning him to come over. William did as he was told.
When he got there, the housemaster ordered him to take off his pyjamas and lean over the couch. Then he belted William ‘ferociously’, and raped him. Afterwards, he made William remain prone in the same position for 10 minutes. Then he sent him away.
The next time the boys showered, William’s brother noticed marks from the belting. ‘I was red from head to toe.’ William told him about being beaten, but not about being sexually assaulted. He didn’t tell anyone about that.
‘In some ways I always wondered: what did I do wrong? But luckily it only happened that once.’
As far as he knows, the housemaster didn’t threaten him to keep him silent. But his memory of that period has disappeared, so he can’t be sure. ‘I don’t know’, he said. ‘I can’t remember another thing.’
William thinks the first person he told about the abuse was probably his first wife, about 15 or 16 years later. But it was not then or now something he wants to talk about.
‘You don’t think about things. You block it out and you move on and – I think I spoke to my housemate a while ago about it but that’s it – but it’s done and dusted, yeah.’
He does still live with one consequence of the abuse. ‘Someone gets in my face, or even in a closed room – I’ve gotta get out. That’s the only thing. I hate being – I’m not a claustrophobic, it’s just if I’m in a situation … [I’m] not aggressive at all, I just go. That’s probably the only thing that I’ve thought about.’
William doesn’t see any value in reporting the housemaster to police or the school. He’s not interested in redress.
‘It can’t change anything. It is what it is. You gotta move on … It’s not going to do you any good going over it. There’s bigger issues …
‘Rest of my life’s been interesting too, and it’s still going.’