WARNING: REFERENCES TO SEXUAL ABUSE, SUICIDE
Sexual abuse at Dilworth School was occurring as early as the 1950s, says a student who has kept his alleged abuse secret for 70 years.
Seven men were charged last week with unconnected, historical abuse offences at Dilworth which took place between the 1970s to the late 2000s.
Charles Peter Reynolds, 79, attended the school in the 1950s. He said he was sexually abused repeatedly by a senior student at the school and physically abused by other students.
Reynolds was enrolled at the boarding school because his parents were struggling to manage his behavioural difficulties.
"My first memory is a student coming up to me and saying 'You're new here, don't say anything to anyone because it'll get you in trouble. That stuck with me, like 'Oh my God, what did my parents get me into here?''
He said in his opinion there was "rampant" bullying by other students and prefects and he was abused throughout his seven years at the school, and claimed he was beaten by students and his glasses smashed under the foot of his bed.
There was also a punitive culture at the school. He was caned "for the slightest infraction" and was not allowed to go for weekends for "frivolous reasons". One teacher viciously caned him (corporal punishment was still legal), which often left him bleeding.
"It really was brutal, but I figured it was the norm. My father was in the military so I figured I had to suck it up and go along with the programme."
There was also sexual abuse, Reynolds claimed. One senior student got him out of bed after dark and took him to a cabin at the school.
"For a minute I thought he was trying to help me but next minute he had his hands down my pyjamas. And I knew I just had to stand there."
Reynolds claimed the sexual abuse occurred repeatedly over several years and in his opinion he felt he could not complain about it.
He believed "the goons would be out to get me and crucify me" and felt there was "a hierarchy system which you didn't dare fall out of step, no matter what".
He is one of a number of old boys over several decades to allege that the school quietly moved on teachers or staff who were suspected of abuse.
The abuse had a lifelong effect on him, he said. He attempted suicide, and struggled with alcohol addiction for 20 years.
Dilworth Trust Board chair Aaron Snodgrass last week conceded that the school's historical procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse had fallen short.
"They were inadequate and we apologise to our Old Boys for this," the school said through a spokesperson.
After finishing at Dilworth, Reynolds left New Zealand for England and then moved to Canada. He later shifted to the United States and worked for a cruise line company. He is now retired in Florida.
In his old age, and having been through three bouts of cancer, he decided it was time to talk about the abuse.
"I put it all in the back of my mind and I left it there for 70-plus years. I just bottled it up." he said.
"I thought, you know what, somehow I got to clear my head before I leave this world."
Where to get help:
• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand - find your closest one here.
• Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am - 8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.