GROOMED BY EVIL: ‘My youth ripped away from me’

SASCHA Chandler thought they were just mates.

He felt special - somebody was sharing with him their secrets, buying him gifts and giving him advice.

But at the impressionable age of 14, Mr Chandler did not realise he was actually being groomed by a well-respected volunteer at his private school, Andrew McIntosh.

Mr Chandler was a student at Barker College on Sydney's North Shore in 1990 when McIntosh volunteered as a cadet organiser.

He singled out Mr Chandler and groomed him for 12 months before he started sexually abusing him. More than a decade after the abuse, Mr Chandler made it his mission to put his attacker behind bars.

Mr Chandler tells his story to news.com.au ahead of Child Protection Week, which coincides with data released by child abuse prevention agency Act For Kids.

The organisation revealed 92 per cent of people did not do enough to intervene when they knew about child abuse and 1 in four people were not confident they could spot the signs of abuse.

Over the past five years, the number of children abused or neglected has increased more than 20 per cent, and one child is suffering from abuse or neglect every 12 minutes.

Sascha Chandler fought to have his attacker jailed.
Sascha Chandler fought to have his attacker jailed. News Limited

'I THOUGHT I WAS USELESS'

Mr Chandler is now an ambassador for Act For Kids because he wants to teach young people what he wish he knew as a 14-year-old, to understand what was happening.

"I had my whole childhood, my teenage years completely ripped away from me, stolen," he said.

"My memories go up to the point I choose to remember, they go up to when the abuse started, and then they start again in my mid-20s.

"It was a dark five years in my life and I'll never be able to get that back. Somebody took that from me and I wish I could talk about fond memories of those times, I just can't.

"I've disassociated from people in my life, school friends and what not, from that time."

During McIntosh's trial it was revealed Mr Chandler was forced to strip naked, share a bed and shower with McIntosh.

Another victim was forced to remove his clothes before he was flogged and sexually assaulted and another was whipped with a kettle cord.

Mr Chandler was abused up until he was 17 and fell into a dark hole of depression which lasted well into his 20s.

He suffered from alcohol and substance abuse and constantly thought about self harm.

He had a lack of self-respect and self-worth because of how he had been treated during those sinister years.

"I was being told I was useless and wouldn't amount to anything and I started to believe it. It's hard enough being somebody in your early teens trying to learn your way through life and where you fit in to make friends, let alone this stuff going on as well."

Convicted paedophile Andrew Dean McIntosh, former cadet officer at Barker College in Sydney.
Convicted paedophile Andrew Dean McIntosh, former cadet officer at Barker College in Sydney. Supplied

HOW HE BECAME A VICTIM

Only after his abuse did Mr Chandler find out McIntosh had victims before him.

"I am now aware of victims who came before me, all of whom were treated and groomed in exactly the same fashion as I was," he said.

"It goes to show a lot of these perpetrators rarely have one-off offences. It's a pattern of behaviour and they refine grooming techniques.

"[McIntosh] made me feel special and important. There were small gifts, there were conversations now that I look at were inappropriate in terms of advice to a kid growing up. But that was part of making you feel special.

"He singled me out and spent time with me. He was an important person at school and you absorb that and appreciate that rather than question it."

Mr Chandler said McIntosh started to emphasise the importance of secrecy around their conversations and he didn't realise at the time it was breaking down his barriers one piece at a time.

"It was systematic, well-planned and orchestrated over 12 months, a year of grooming before the sexual abuse started," he said.

"I felt we were good friends."

Paedophile Andrew Dean McIntosh.
Paedophile Andrew Dean McIntosh. Supplied

TAKING HIM DOWN

Mr Chandler moved to London in his early 20s where he started to work through his PTSD and anxiety. He met his wife who helped him overcome his self-destructive behaviour and encouraged him to look to the future and not dwell on the past.

They had a child together while they were living in Europe and it fired Mr Chandler up to bring justice to all McIntosh's victims.

"I had been living in Europe to try and avoid being in Australia walking on the same soil as the guy. The more distance I could create, the better. But I knew I had a social responsibility to do everything in my power to put him in prison so he wasn't around to hurt another child.

"When I was reminded of the innocence of a child, it became a matter of I must do it and have to do it now so I returned to Australia."

Mr Chandler met with lawyers for advice on how to best take action and be began seeing a psychiatrist weekly.

He made a statement to police who then tried to track McIntosh down.

He had not told anyone about the abuse he suffered until he was in his mid-20s, afraid nobody would believe him.

Police could not find McIntosh until two families selling yachts in the Whitsundays met a sailor going by the name of Hayden Stuart. They became suspicious when he started paying a lot of attention to their children and the parents found documents that revealed his real name. After googling him they contacted police.

In 2010 he was convicted of 24 charges of raping and assaulting Mr Chandler.

In 2011 he was found guilty of 18 charges of buggery and indecent assault involving three boys as young as nine.

He was convicted on all 42 charges and sentenced to 32 years in prison with a non-parole period of 20 years.

"The day they read out the verdict in court was the most incredible day of my life," he said.

"It was incredible, there was recognition this happened, it was not a vengeful feeling but a feeling of, today my life starts again, today I'm free, today I have the power and he doesn't."

WHAT DOESN'T KILL US MAKES US STRONGER

"You have to take control of your life in these situations," Mr Chandler said.

"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Surviving something like this is not something to be ashamed of. It was not your fault and there can be huge freedom in understanding that and bringing a perpetrator to justice and shifting the power from them to where it belongs with us.

"You will be believed and there are loads of people out there to support you."

Mr Chandler said the royal commission had made society aware of how often child abuse and neglect was happening.

"People are more vigilant, looking out for this stuff and it's not getting swept under the carpet and we are empowered to talk about it," he said.

"Child abuse ignored is child abuse, our kids don't necessarily have a voice, the adults need to be prepared to get up and talk about this stuff and if they are suspicious, investigate it."

News Corp Australia

Nurse charged over drunken city nightclub tantrum

Nurse charged over drunken city nightclub tantrum

A nurse told police she'd refuse to treat them at hospital.

Dad's 'shocking' abuse on family terrified children

Dad's 'shocking' abuse on family terrified children

Angry dad beat wife and hit young daughter with walking stick

Woman found dead in custody in Ipswich

Woman found dead in custody in Ipswich

Guards find woman, 44, deceased during a routine cell check

Local Partners