Were things really that different back then?

One of the most common arguments by the many sexual predators who have been exposed in recent times is that

One of the most common arguments by the many sexual predators who have been exposed in recent times is that “things were different back then”.

“It was another time,” they say. “The rules were different.”

But surely the rules weren’t so different that students could swallow their pride and fears and go to their principal to report the sexual abuse of a peer, only to be dismissed.

Surely there was no rule that said it was okay for a teacher to touch a student’s genitals? If there was such a rule, was the child – and his mother – told about this regulation before being sent away? Were the mothers of the countless children the teacher would go on to abuse told it was okay because that’s how things were?

Yesterday’s revelation at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is simply disgusting, and the excuse that “things were different back then” simply won’t fly.

Gilbert Case, who was principal at St Paul’s School in Brisbane was questioned at the Royal Commission about allegations that a teacher, Gregory Robert Knight, exposed himself to student on a music camp and a note that appeared to be written in his own handwriting that listed complaints against the teacher, including that he fondled a student’s genitals as part of a game of truth or dare.

Mr Case was asked whether he thought in was appropriate for a teacher to expose himself to 13-year-old boys.

He replied that he was not aware at the time that this was a criminal offence and it wasn’t until a police officer told him so in 2002 that he learned this action was against the law.

He was then asked: “You were aware that if the behaviour of the adult teacher extended to the adult teacher touching or fondling the genitals of students in their care, that would plainly be a criminal act”?

“I probably didn’t think of that in terms of criminal acts,” Mr Case said.

Mr Case allowed the music teacher to resign after complaints about his inappropriate behaviour were raised by a parent. He then wrote Knight a reference that allowed him to continue teaching in the Northern Territory.

Could a principal truly not think it was illegal for a teacher to do these things to a child? And could he abandon his duty of care by fobbing the teacher off onto another school, for another principal to deal with.

Yes, times have changed but surely not that much – if students and parents knew the teacher’s behaviour was wrong, it goes without saying that a principal would too.

Were times really so different back then? Were teachers infallible? Were boys not innocents?

Share your thoughts.

  1. In every era there will always be perverts, it is up to parents and teachers and the community as a whole to be aware and alert for any signs of abuse. In our generation these issues were not openly discussed and that made it easier for pedophiles to get away with it. Frank and open discussion is good weapon against this kind of abuse and warning your children and grandchildren of the dangers

  2. Yes, times were different. Kids put up with much from teachers. Parents did not storm the school with indignation when their children received a punishment, but never, in the history of Western civilisation have “different times/rules” permitted sexual abuse of anyone, let alone children. It has never been ok and there are no excuses, extenuating circumstances or situations. None.

  3. Ah… you see it wasn’t the “rules” that were different, it was people’s attitudes to all things sexual as being “not nice” and “not talked about:. Society back then was much more prudish than it is now, and children were largely ignorant of eveything to do with sex, and what is appropriate and what is not where strangers are concerned. Yes, we were told “don’t talk to strangers”, but you have to realise that in those days it was all underground. Homosexuality, for instance, was actually illegal, a criminal offence.
    If a child was abused by a stranger or a family member, it was far more likely back then for the child not to say anything because “it’s not quite nice” and they would be blamed for being involved in anything like that.
    So the main difference was not what was regarded as wrong (in fact the law was more stringent than now) but rather society’s attitude to all things sexual, even sexual abuse. Clergy and teachers were almost above the law in the minds of the general population, and although everyone knew that abuse went on, they turned a blind eye to it because “one doesn’t make a fuss”.
    Right or wrong, that’s how it was, and that is why I carried silently in my mind the burden of my own sexual abuse by a cousin when was was young. One just did not talk about “that sort of thing” in the society of the 40s and 50s. It took the sexual revolution of the 60s to open society’s collective mind to the fact that we are ALL sexual beings, and that healthy outlets for those feelings are essential to a healthy society. The legacy of those days will be with us for some time, because there are those in all societies that still hold to the prudish and corrupt view of the past, the source of which was of course religious doctrine.
    Society is much more secular now, thank goodness, so medieval ideas no longer predominate in law….. 🙁

    • Like you I was sexually abused by a relative (uncle) and would not have been game to tell anyone – I felt it must have been my fault :(. It wasn’t until I was in my ’50’s that I finally realised it was his fault!

  4. “Probably didn’t think of it as criminal act” ??? What a spineless, weak, nasty person. Forever, adults (real ones that is) have been and still are ment to nurture and protect the young and the vulnerable. Ignorance is no excuse for this behaviour.

  5. I could not believe it when I heard him say this – if I hadn’t actually watched him I would have thought it sensationalist reporting. This is truly the delusion of the paedophile!

  6. It has been making me feel sick watching these filthy old men & their excuses during this investigation, yes things were that bad back then & we are seeing the proof of it now, & I think this way of thinking is still alive in some older people, you just have to look at some people’s comments on here when this subject comes up, saying that people that report these crimes when they become adults are only after money or attention, I remember seeing a comment on here saying the victim should get over it & was just after money, well this is the reason it has taken some people so long to report these crimes because as kids they were not believed, or threatened , or made to feel guilty, thank god times have changed & this generation are willing to do something about it, these revolting old men deserve everything they get now & I hope some of these victims feel at least now they have a bit of justice for what they went through.

    • It sickens and disgusts me too Lyn. Of course they knew it was wrong. The fact that others moved to protect them and not the children, and that they can still sit there in in denial just beggars belief. I am pleased they are being exposed for the perverted predators that they are, I hope the law comes down heavily on them. My heart goes out to their victims

  7. My father was on the jury in a trial of a man accused of sexually molesting several young boys, now adults. Two things particularly effected my father. The first was seeing adult men crying as they recalled the abuse, the second was the fact that the accused did not seem to think he had done anything wrong. (He was found guilty). I do think that this subject is discussed more openly now and I think it should be. No child should have to suffer sexual abuse.

  8. i worked in the trust bank in Hastings when young and i remember going into the bank managers office to ask for clients sheets becuase we machined the debits and credits in the morning and had to have them all in order ready to do so for the morning and the ghastly manager asked me what it was worth if he gave them to me.I answered its worth getting the machining done in the morning and he answered i want something more personal than that.That was the first time i’d struck sexual harrasment in the work place and being only 19 and this ghastly old man had said that to me.It explained to me why a lot of female staff used to be crying in the cloak room after coming out of his office,.But we were too scared to do anything.

  9. A total, utter disgrace, abuse of trusts, responsibilities, duty of care. Equally guilty of the crime as the offender. Wonder if he would turn the other way if it had happened to his children, grandchildren??

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