Abe was removed from his mother as an infant and, at five years of age, placed in a Salvation Army boys’ home in Victoria. In the 1970s, when he was eight, he was sexually assaulted by one of the home’s live-in workers, Stephen Carlisle.
Carlisle, who was not a Salvation Army officer, often took children on excursions and used these opportunities to abuse them. Returning one day from an outing, the group stopped at a service station and Carlisle followed Abe into the toilets, pulled down his pants and masturbated him. He then gave the boy lollies and pretended nothing had happened.
Abe told the Commissioner that when Carlisle took them to the swimming pool, he’d be grabbing and groping boys, and encouraging them to dive off his shoulders.
‘He used to hold us up and rub his hands along your penis, you know what I mean? … He always made it in a fun type of way, but it wasn’t.’ All the boys knew about Carlisle and called him names, but they didn’t discuss his specific behaviour, nor did they report him. ‘Once it happened to you, you don’t tell no one ‘cause no one wanted to listen anyway. And instead of being nice, they’d just punish you if you did nothing much wrong, you know what I mean? So you just kept it all inside and that’s what I do these days, I just keep it all inside.’
Carlisle lived in a separate cottage and Abe did his best to avoid him. ‘I just stayed away from him. One hundred per cent. I wouldn’t even go swimming, hot days and all. Not me.’
When he was about nine years old, Abe was with a group of four boys on a yacht when he was sexually abused by a man he knew only as Dave. The outing had been organised by the home as a weekend away but no other staff or Army officers were present. Abe didn’t know who Dave was or where he’d come from.
At the age of 11, Abe was taken into the common room by a young woman who was a friend of the cottage parents and raped. He said at the time he didn’t know anything about sex, but that she obviously did because she had a condom with her.
In the 2010s, Victorian Police were investigating sexual abuse allegations against Carlisle and rang Abe as part of their enquiries. He didn’t know where they got his telephone number but told them, ‘yes’, that Carlisle had abused him. He also reported the abuse by Dave and the young woman but was told there was insufficient information to investigate those matters. He told the Commissioner the investigation of Carlisle was still proceeding.
Abe’s disclosure to Victorian Police was the first he’d made since telling his best friend in primary school. Since making his statement, he’d spoken to his son in general terms about the abuse, but said mostly ‘you just keep everything inside. I don’t know why’.
From young adulthood, Abe had used alcohol and drugs but realised that it wasn’t helping him. Things changed in the 1990s when he was given sole custody of his 12-month-old son.
‘Looking after him made me look after myself.’