Former water polo coach Collan Rex pleaded guilty to 144 charges relating to the abuse of pupils at the prestigious Johannesburg private school Parktown Boys High. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - The Parktown Boys High sex pest has blamed the school for his blurred sexual boundaries with children, claiming he was also exposed directly to physical, emotional and sexual abuse by fellow pupils and his coach when he was studying there.

Rex, the school’s former assistant water polo coach, was found guilty of 144 charges of sexual assault and a further 12 of common assault for molesting and attacking more than a dozen pupils during his short tenure at the school between 2015 and 2016.

The 23-year-old is in the middle of sentencing proceedings at the High Court sitting at Palm Ridge. On Tuesday, probation officer Xoliswa Budaza gave her analysis and sentence recommendation to the court.

Budaza, a social worker at the Department of Social Development, had interviewed Rex, his immediate family, a former teacher and two other social workers as part of her investigation.

However, it was the victim impact statements provided by the pupils Rex had abused that ultimately led to Budaza’s recommendation that correctional supervision (house arrest), a suspended sentence or a fine would be deeply inappropriate sentences.

She asked that the court consider direct imprisonment because of the nature of the power dynamics between himself and the pupils, the seriousness and sheer number of charges against him, the fact that his victims were all minors, and the negative impact he had on their lives.

However, her report also took into account Rex’s past, namely that he had a difficult family life - although never subject to sexual abuse from his parental figures.

It was his time at Parktown Boys’ High School between 2009 and 2013 that proved particularly relevant, however, when Rex was a boarder at the school. “He was exposed to a culture which normalised and encouraged inappropriate sexual behaviour by fellow learners and adults such as his coach in the school,” the report read.

“He recalls that even their water polo coach would encourage the touching of each other’s genitals as this was explained as a strategy to gain power over your opponent. The accused felt he adopted his former coach’s style of training,” it read.

During her interview, Rex claimed that it was during a Grade 8 camp in 2009 that he was first exposed to a culture of physical and verbal abuse at the school, as this was part of the initiation process for new pupils.

That same year, a scandal involving younger pupils being sexually and physically assaulted was widely reported, but Rex claimed his own experience was not a part of this.

The Star