Child sex abuse royal commission: Former Geelong Grammar student has ‘no memory’ of abuse
“A man with no memory of sexual abuse perpetrated at Geelong Grammar is trying to come to terms with shattered memories of his beloved school, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.
Luke Benson said he had only fond memories of his time at prestigious Victorian school from when he first started at the Highton campus in 1988.
He told the inquiry the school took pride in its ability to look after children and he developed incredibly close and intimate bonds with teachers and staff.
“I was made to feel loved,” Mr Benson said.
“It was like going to a slumber party every night for two years.”
Mr Benson met his wife at Geelong Grammar when they were teenagers and were married on the schools grounds.
Then in 2005, his fond memories were shattered by a phone call from Victoria Police.
The commission heard Mr Benson attended the Prahran Police Station and was told Phillippe Trutmann had admitted to abusing him approximately 30 to 40 times over a two year period.
“This news changed my life — I have no memory of this happening, and I inquired whether it was a mistake,” he said.
Police told him Trutmann had gone through the school year book and identified boys he had abused.
Trutmann was sentenced to six and a half years’ jail for abusing more than 40 students at Geelong Grammar.
In between gulps of water, Mr Benson told the commission Trutmann was the first person he met at the live-in boarding house at Highton.
“I had a very close relationship with Trutmann,” he said.
He said Trutmann was one of a number of staff that he would go to when he was homesick for “a cuddle, a cry and a hot chocolate”.
“There was a group of teachers at Highton who created a safe environment where they loved and cared for us. Trutmann was one of them.” Mr Benson said.
“Police told me that other boys called him Filthy Phil and would say ‘don’t be alone with Phil’.”
He said it was a hugely emotional and traumatic revelation.
“It is confusing to have no recollection of the abuse,” Mr Benson said.
“It is confronting to think that one day I could have a recollection of the abuse and that I have repressed the memory.”
Victim recalls being ‘groomed’ by convicted abuser
In hindsight, Mr Benson told the commission he recalled being groomed by Trutmann, who would be affectionate, would touch his back and often linger in the showers watching the boys.
He said the revelation damaged his father who made sacrifices to send him “to one of Australia’s most prestigious schools”.
“I felt rotten telling him the abuse occurred as it was like taking away the one decision he was proud of as a parent,” Mr Benson said.
Mr Benson questioned if teachers knew about the abuse.
The Commission heard Benson and his friends were invited to a dinner party at a teacher’s house in 1989, where they were plied with alcohol.
“It was one of the most memorable nights of my life, and I was actively encouraged to drink — I didn’t arrive to get drunk but I did,” Mr Benson said.
He said the teachers talked openly about sex and now he wondered if they were trying to find out if we had been abused by Trutmann.
“Part of me thinks that they knew about Trutmann’s impropriety and part of the information given to me by police suggests that they did know,” Mr Benson told the inquiry.
Mr Benson said he held Geelong Grammar responsible.
“I started to wait for the school to respond and take responsibility,” he said.
“I hoped that the school would reach out and help me after he was convicted. It did not.
“I have never been contacted by the school.”