Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer is a police reporter for the NZ Herald.

School letter made abuse victim feel 'worthless'

Survivor furious at chairman's suggestion historic sex complaints driven by money.

The chairman of an Auckland school's board of trustees has accused victims of historic sex crimes of exploiting their abuse as an "excuse" for difficulties in later life.

Historic sex abuse victims were also often motivated by the hope of financial gain, he said.

His accusations - outlined in a letter to the lawyer of a former student who was sexually abused by a tutor at the school in 1973 have outraged the victim, as well as rape prevention advocates.

The former tutor, 63-year-old Palmerston North youth worker Keith William Dixon, was yesterday sentenced to two charges of inducing his victim, who was 9 at the time, to commit indecent acts on him.

Last January, the victim who is now 52 and living in Australia approached the school about a meeting to discuss the abuse he suffered there.

The board chairman, an old boy of the school, wrote back saying he would meet the victim "but I intend that to be nothing more than as a courtesy".

He outlined his concerns about the validity of the victim's complaints.

"You will appreciate that one has to be very careful about historical complaints," he said. "Many cannot be authenticated because of the passage of time ... . We are informed that a relatively high proportion tend to be made late as an excuse for difficulties which have arisen in the person's life - this is not to say that the abuse did not occur."

He also said: "We are informed that a number of late complaints are motivated by the intention to seek accident compensation."

He finished the letter saying the board would be deeply sorry if abuse had happened - but the school "will not make any financial contribution" or "any payment of any kind" to the victim or his legal and travel costs, as it would be "quite inappropriate to do so".

The victim told the Herald last night the letter made him "feel worthless".

"I wasn't after money, I wasn't after any of that. I didn't want anything. All I was after was that somebody would believe me. I was telling the truth.

"That letter made me feel worthless. They showed no empathy whatsoever, and that's what made me wild."

Making the complaint had been difficult, but was made easier by the police and his lawyer, he said.

"The only terrible people are the school. They're just protecting their brand. I think they've handled this whole thing very badly."

The school was granted permanent name suppression in the Auckland District Court yesterday, following a submission from its lawyer.

Louise Nicholas, national survivor advocate with Rape Prevention Education, said the school's response was unacceptable.

"For the chairman of the board to assume the reason he [the victim] has come forward is for financial gain, to me that is absolutely abhorrent. That's just absolutely heinous.

"In my view the school, and especially the board, needs educating in what it's like for a survivor to come forward. For him [the victim] to come forward is commendable the school should be saying thank you for bringing it up.

"Instead of questioning the survivor, they should be questioning themselves on how to deal with a survivor next time."

Rape Prevention Education executive director Kim McGregor was similarly "outraged" at the letter.

"It's very disappointing, there's a lot of victim-blaming in that letter."

The chairman said he did not want "to get into a discussion about it" and refused further comment.

Jail term for former tutor

Keith William Dixon pleaded guilty in February to two charges of inducing a boy aged under 16 to do an indecent act on him at an Auckland school in 1973.

The former school tutor appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday, where he was jailed for two years and two months.

The charges stem from offences which took place at the school between February and December 1973.

Dixon induced his 9-year-old victim into indecent acts, during which other boys were present.

In sentencing, Judge Edward Paul told Dixon his offending was selfish, against a vulnerable 9-year-old victim.

"This is not insignificant offending. It is serious. This type of offending is particularly harmful. There's a gross breach of trust ... It was premeditated."

Dixon had previously been sentenced to prison in 1997 for similar offending.

In his victim impact statement parts of which were read out in court, but which was supplied in full to the Herald by the victim he said the pain caused by the offending, 41 years later, "never goes away".

"You used your power as an adult in a position of authority for your own selfish desires, with no regard to anything but your own satisfaction," he said.

"I wondered about my life, how it might have turned out if you had not molested me.

"Could I have become a teacher, as I wanted ... Could I have become a parent? Could I have married?"

Judge Paul said the victim impact statement made very sad reading.

- NZ Herald

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