4 November 2022

'Putrid secret' of sex abuse kept hidden for years before birth of child made man speak out

| Albert McKnight
Man and woman leaving court

Christopher Cooksley leaves Canberra’s court earlier this year. Photo: Supplied.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses childhood sexual abuse.

A man has spoken out about how he kept the “hidden shame” of the sexual abuse he endured as a child over 40 years ago secret from his family while his life spiralled out of control.

He had turned into a “rebel loner” on “a path of self-destruction” before realising he had to change due to the upcoming birth of his child, so he went to his local police station, “left [his] dignity and pride on the doorstep” and reported Christopher Cooksley.

“Now I have to live with the fact my putrid secret is now kind of public knowledge,” the survivor said in a statement read at the 72-year-old’s sentencing hearing in the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday (3 November).

“Time has not reduced the resentment that hides within.”

He was an 11-year-old earning money by clipping lawns when he met Cooksley at a Canberra petrol station where he had gone to buy two-stroke mix for his lawnmower.

Cooksley worked there and was smoking in his office when he arrived, court documents say. He gave him his cigarette to hold while he prepared the mix.

This was the start of their friendship, and the survivor would often go to the servo to help fix up old cars like Jaguars and MGs while Cooksley also befriended his family before he began sexually abusing him.

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Afterwards, the survivor said his grades dropped from As to not even qualifying for Year 10. He started acting out as well as taking alcohol and drugs.

“The more I used, the less I cared. This was the start of over 30 years of misery,” he said.

His behaviour escalated to such a level his family sent him to live on the NSW South Coast where he enrolled in a local high school, but continued to live a double life and said, “the dark side was winning”.

He kept up a “charade” to his family and friends, pretending to be “normal”, and they did not know the cause of his unruly behaviour. He said due to the grief he brought to his family, “I’m surprised they even speak to me”.

“I didn’t even know if help was available, let alone how to look for it. Being the start of the ’80s, you just didn’t talk about it,” he said.

He continued to take alcohol and drugs after becoming a regular user when aged 15.

“My existence had become devoted to hiding the truth and running from reality,” he said of his substance use.

A life-changing moment came with the conception of his child, he said, and he realised he could no longer apply “band-aid” solutions to his life and went to the police.

Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson said the court had heard and understood the survivor’s eloquent statement.

Cooksley had pleaded guilty to charges of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under special care and indecent assault on a male.

The court documents say he first sexually assaulted the boy at his home in O’Connor in the early 1980s when the boy was 13. He then continued to assault him two to three times a week for about nine months.

In court, Cooksley testified and said, “The activity that took place, I did not force him to do it”.

“I know I was wrong. We simply got too close. It was my fault,” he said.

The court also heard that in 2009, he spent six months in jail over sexually abusing the same victim in NSW.

Under questioning from his barrister Greg Hoare, Cooksley said he had struggled with knowing what his sexuality was and admitted he had a sexual attraction to young boys.

“I didn’t understand my sexuality, so I decided the only solution was to remain celibate,” he said, admitting he’d never had an adult relationship with a man or a woman.

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But in cross-examination, Crown Prosecutor Murray Thomas told him, “You never gave [the victim] the opportunity to find out what his sexuality was like”.

“No, I guess not,” Cooksley replied.

Forensic psychologist Dr Bruce Stevens testified and said he thought Cooksley did meet the criteria for paedophilia.

Cooksley said he had fostered over 300 boys but had never sexually offended against any of them.

“I just thought I could do them some good,” he said of why he chose to foster.

Justice Loukas-Karlsson revoked Cooklsey’s bail and he was remanded into custody. She adjourned to 30 November to hand down her sentence.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, Lifeline 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. In an emergency, call 000.

Original Article published by Albert McKnight on Riotact.

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