Now in his 40s, Adam is thinking about whether or not to take any legal action in regard to the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
‘If it was just me, I'm not sure of any benefit. But if it continues to have potentially a wider impact for other people, I'm now starting to think maybe that's something I do have to consider because there might be a more important reason for it.’
Adam was an enthusiastic and active cub and scout member as a kid, growing up in Sydney. He went on to join a venturers’ unit for 14 to 18-year-olds. That was where he met one of the leaders, Lesley Richards, who was a doctor.
‘He [Lesley] gave up a lot of his time for the venturers, and it wasn't just our unit. He was doing work within the state and things like that, so I think he was held in high regard and some parents would have valued his time and effort that he was putting into the kids … He probably had a lot of trust and a lot of respect.’
He also had the ‘latest everything’ including fast cars and Adam, along with many of the other boys, looked up to him. Activities included camping, caving and bushwalking. Lesley would also have small groups of boys over to his place to watch movies. On one such occasion, when Adam was 15, he was the only boy staying overnight.
Lesley took him to a room that had what seemed to be an examination bench in it. He told Adam, who described himself as a naive and compliant kid, to lay down and take his clothes off.
‘By the time I'd taken my clothes off and was lying down, I was already thinking something is not right and he – I can't remember the exact wording, but I'm sure he used a phrase along the lines, “It's okay, I'm a doctor, it's all right”. And by that stage a lot of us had trusted him with all kinds of things. We did abseiling where we learnt to trust each other literally with our lives.’
Adam remembers Lesley set it all up like it was an examination. He touched Adam, including on the genitals. Adam recalls going into a ‘state of shock’. He still slept over and felt ‘outrageously uncomfortable’.
The following morning Lesley came into the room again, dressed only in a towel, and sat on his bed –‘or whatever it was’ – making out he wanted to console Adam. Although Adam didn’t lash out, he was angry. ‘I think I would have been showing physical signs of “No, that is not going to happen”. And he didn’t get in [to bed].’
Feeling embarrassed and unsure that he would be believed, Adam didn’t tell anyone.
From then on, he avoided Lesley but was still able to participate in the club. However, not long after the abuse, Adam was sick and his parents, despite Adam’s objections, decided to take him to see Lesley.
In the examination room, again Lesley told Adam to take his clothes off and lie down. Adam knew this was nothing to do with his sore throat. Lesley abused Adam a second time. ‘I've never thought of myself as a naturally aggressive person and so it was quite unusual for me to feel such rage towards somebody and he would have picked up on that body language, I'm sure.’
It’s difficult for Adam to recall the immediate impact the abuse might have had on him. At around this time his grades at school did slip although he thinks that was the case in all his high school years as he wasn’t happy at that school.
As an adult he’s felt ‘very repressed about certain things’. He has a distrust of doctors and people generally. He experienced depression and received counselling for that. ‘There's other times where I'm not even thinking about any of that sort of stuff and that is very positive as well. So given the pile of different options some people have, I'm pleased to say I'm not the bottom of the pile.’
His first disclosure was to a girlfriend in the 1990s. ‘I don’t remember her response. I remember feeling a weight had lifted.’
Among some of the club members, Adam recalls a bit of anti-Lesley sentiment. ‘Without anyone stating it, there was an understanding that Lesley wasn’t the thing that some of us once thought he was.’ Adam never told Scouts that the abuse had happened. He never reported to police.
In more recent years, Adam has become aware that Lesley has served jail sentences for child sexual offences.
‘I remember when I heard the information that Lesley had gone to jail, there was mixed feelings there. There was some relief that, in a way, the cat is out of the bag … so suddenly your story seems to have credibility, you know, it is more believable. But there's the other side, that maybe if I'd gone forward and said something earlier, then it wouldn't have been someone else's problem as well.’