On Monday an entire room was brought to tears as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard the heartbreaking testimony from a father of a Knox Grammar student who was a victim of child sexual abuse whilst at that school.
With his wife by his side for support, this brave elderly man dedicated his testimony to the memory of his cherished son who died just three years ago, prematurely at the age of 44.
The hearing room listened as he spoke of the health issues that lead to his son's death – issues that had commenced at the time the abuse had begun when his son was 12 years old.
He reported that neither his son nor his family were ever offered an acknowledgement, an apology or support by the school administration at Knox, despite the conviction of the perpetrator in 2009.
It is worth noting that Knox Grammar still has no information on its website acknowledging that at least five paedophiles were operating at the school for over 30 years.
The commission also heard of the negative impact that the suspended sentence of his son's perpetrator had on the entire family. Written entreaties from his son and their family to the presiding judge questioning why a custodial sentence was not awarded were never responded to or even acknowledged by the courts.
Child sexual abuse is betrayal of the worst kind, and often means interrupted education and limited prospects. Research consistently indicates that men wait on average 25 years before they disclose to anyone about the abuse they have suffered.
Ill-health, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, depression and suicide are just some of the devastating outcomes of child sexual abuse.
Men sexually abused in childhood are particularly vulnerable to suicide, reporting suicidal ideation at 10 times the rate of a community sample of Australian men. Forty six percent of male survivors report suicide attempts.
Newcastle has been rocked by a number of suicides by male survivors and in 2013, the Victorian Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other organisations substantiated the suicides of more than 50 men in the Ballarat region alone.
The exact numbers of suicide by survivors of childhood sexual abuse will never be known but the fact that children are losing their fathers, wives their husbands, in many cases without really knowing why, is beyond tragic. This is the insidious and hidden social cost of childhood sexual abuse.
With the right kind of specialist support, understanding and mateship, men struggling with the adverse effects of childhood sexual abuse can recover. Contrary to popular belief, when men feel safe to do so, they do open up and talk. We at the Survivors and Mates Support Network have witnessed the incredible healing power that occurs when the isolation is broken and men begin to understand that their coping mechanisms, however destructive, are not unusual for people who have been abused and they are not alone or beyond help.
Craig Hughes-Cashmore is co-founder and executive director of the Survivors & Mates Support Network.
A former student of a Sydney private school says students were sexually abused so often, he was not sure it was wrong when he was assaulted by a teacher in the playground.
Former Knox Grammar student Scott Ashton told the royal commission into child sexual abuse of the shock, shame and confusion he suffered after being abused at the school in the 1980s.
Students were abused at the exclusive boys school, on Sydney's north shore, over a 33-year period from the 1970s until 2003.
Mr Ashton told the second day of the inquiry into the school it was common for teachers to inappropriately touch students, and he was touched in the playground in view of another teacher.
"I was appalled, confused and distressed," Mr Ashton said. "The entire episode was completely open and brazen and occurred in the playground in front of the entire school community.
"What especially confused me was that it seemed open and normal in the context of the Knox environment. "It was so common I wasn't sure it was wrong for teachers to touch me like that."
Five former teachers have been convicted of child sex offences, but the commission has been told the problem was worse than first thought.
Allegations that three other Knox staff members abused students were heard on Monday.
The commission also heard there was evidence the school knew about abuse but never told police, and the alleged perpetrators have not faced criminal proceedings.
Knox Grammar School's lawyer, Geoffrey Watson SC, asked to speak before any of the witnesses on Monday.
He said that the school conceded what happened was disturbing and damaging.
"There is no excuse," Geoffrey Watson SC said.
"The school owed a primary responsibility to those students, and to those parents, to keep them safe from this sort of thing.
"The school humbly and sincerely apologises for its failure." Sure, now that it's been outed!
Outside the commission, former student Scott Ashton said it was a forced apology.
Adrian Steer, who gave evidence of his abuse while being a student at Knox, also dismissed the school's acknowledgement of its failure.
"I don't believe it was an apology," he said.
"It came from a lawyer, it didn't come from the school themselves. I would like the school to stand up and take responsibility for exactly what's happened."
I agree completely!