Dark secrets of sexual abuse by teacher laid bare after two decades

2014-06-05 00:00

AFTER 21 years a terrible, dark secret has been laid bare before the courts.

Shame and embarrassment about being sexually molested by their school teacher at Richmond Primary School in 1993 kept two men silent for over two decades until this year, when each coincidentally and separately approached police to lay charges.

Yesterday, the two men welcomed that teacher Robin Radley has finally admitted to his crimes and pleaded guilty in court. But they expressed concern that he is still teaching at the same school even though Radley said he’d stopped abusing boys after the incidents. Radley entered into a plea bargain agreement brokered by state prosecutor Johan Senekal and defence advocate Louis Barnard, in terms of which he received a wholly suspended sentence of four years’ imprisonment.

Asked by regional court magistrate Corrie Greyling why he wanted to plead guilty to the charges of indecent assault, Radley replied, “I was very mixed up at that stage of my life and I want to take responsibility for my actions.”

According to his statement to court, Radley said at the time he was a “young and inexperienced teacher still finding his feet in the teaching profession” and also found himself in a state of emotional turmoil because he was gay.

Because society “frowned” on gay people he was unable to live openly as a gay person.

“Being inexperienced as a teacher, the accused failed to keep a proper distance between himself and some of the boys at the school who he allowed to visit him at the hostel where he lived at the time.”

According to the statement, Radley and the boys, then 13 years old, had “chatted” and then moved to his room where on separate occasions he indecently assaulted each of them.

“The accused was later ashamed of what he had done and after the incidents said he’d learnt to keep his distance from the pupils, and has “refrained from acting in such a manner since”.

The men — one of whom lives in Durban and the other in Cape Town — told The Witness during telephonic interviews that neither of them had kept in touch after leaving school.

“I never knew about anyone else being abused [by Radley]. It wasn’t something I would talk about. It was embarrassing,” one said.

They each said they didn’t know the other had laid charges against Radley.

The Witness established that the state was initially loathe to proceed with a prosecution in the case but when a second complaint emerged, both about the same teacher, a decision was taken to prosecute Radley.

One of the victims said the abuse led to him committing a similar sexual offence in later life, as a result of which he was ordered by a court to undergo group counselling.

According to his victim impact statement, he sexually assaulted two 12-year-old girls in 2009, for which he received a sentence of three years’ imprisonment, suspended on condition he undergo counselling.

He also suffered from alcoholism.

“Towards the end of my counselling, which spanned four-and-a-half years, my experience at school came to light. I had suppressed it for so long.”

The man said his therapist guided him to lay a charge against Radley in the belief that this would give him some closure.

“It has done that for me, but I am worried that he is still a teacher,” he said

“I am engaged to be married now and we have a baby daughter on the way,” he added.

The other victim told The Witness that shame about what had happened to him kept him quiet all these years. He said he experienced social and relationship difficulties.

“At some point though you just crack and have to tell someone,” he said.

He too underwent counselling and said he is now “happy and engaged” and his fiancée is supporting him and helping him to deal with what happened.

The man said he feels no closure despite Radley’s guilty plea and sentence. “The damage is done as far as I am concerned. He can’t do anything further to me but I believe the Education Department should get involved to protect others at the school.”

The man said Radley only pleaded guilty because of the charges laid against him.

Attempts to get comment from the Education Department yesterday were unsuccessful.

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