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Experiences Shared

Zander

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Zander has felt tormented most of his life by memories of being sexually abused by a teacher at his private school.

As an adult he tried to get justice, but feels he was badly let down by the legal process.

Zander attended a private school during the 1970s. He says he didn’t really want to go there, but his parents were keen on the idea. 

He did not board, but with his parents’ encouragement he regularly stayed on for ‘societies’ after school, run by a senior teacher called Mr Smith in the private rooms where he lived and slept. 

Zander says that Mr Smith made the boys feel special. The teacher ‘made no secret of the fact there were cigarettes, chocolates and alcohol’ in his room for the boys to sample. He adds that Mr Smith also showed them pornographic pictures.

For the first few months, Zander relates that ‘nothing happened’. However, one evening in the second term, Mr Smith dismissed the other boys, took Zander into the bedroom and trapped him on the bed against the wall. 

The teacher masturbated himself and Zander. This happened again, about six times. Zander describes how Mr Smith was ‘forcing me against the wall so I couldn’t move’. He was 12 years old.

Zander says he did not know what to do, he was terrified and he didn’t feel he could tell anyone. He says he had been a ‘lively, happy go lucky kid, but I did not argue with authority, my dad saw to that’. He adds that Mr Smith ‘was imperious, you did what he said’.

He describes how Mr Smith would lay boys across his knee, on the pretext of punishing them, and play with their genitals. When boys from other schools came to play team sports, the teacher would line them up in the showers and inspect their buttocks. ‘Why did no one ever complain?’ he asks, adding that other teachers definitely saw this going on.

Zander struggles to contain his emotions as he describes the effect that the sexual abuse had on him, and still has. ‘Every day for the last 40-odd years, it has been on my mind’ he says.

He repeatedly tried to stay off school on the days of the after-school clubs, feigning illness. He became disengaged from school and his academic work suffered.

Zander is married but says that the abuse had a serious impact on his ability to be intimate, and also to form friendships. ‘Everytime someone tries to get close, I get rid of them’ he says. 

He felt he was fixated on the abuse he had suffered. ‘I was getting angrier and angrier’ he says, and after he tried to take his life he decided ‘I’ve got to do something about it … I am becoming so obsessed’. 

He went straight to the police and met with a female officer who he says was ‘brilliant’. However, after that he did not have a good experience with the case. The police found more victims and survivors and a trial was listed several times, but delayed due to Mr Smith’s health and other reasons. Eventually it was postponed indefinitely.

Zander and other victims and survivors were not offered any support during the case. 

They took out a civil action against Mr Smith and the school, which was settled out of court in their favour. 

Zander feels the criminal court case was a ‘sham’, that Mr Smith lied about his physical condition, and the process was not in any way focused on the victims and survivors. He says he has witnessed ‘what the legal system doesn’t do for people … I wanted the court to see I was a decent bloke who wanted justice’.

He believes passionately that children should be believed, saying ‘Children very rarely lie about sexual abuse’. He adds that professionals should always be careful to report allegations and not assume that someone else will. 

He does not agree with there being a time limit for reporting and investigating non-recent sexual abuse and says there should be an avenue to reopen all cases.

Zander works with children and young people in the care system. He feels he can relate to and advocate for others who have been abused. 

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