‘Childhood sexual abuse is not something that happens in isolation. Particularly in my case I think that the worse abuses happened emotionally and mentally through what I would call a cult-like upbringing.’
Aldon’s parents were deeply religious and, as he was growing up in what his parents saw as the ‘spiritual vacuum’ of 1970s Australia, their faith took on a central role in the family’s life.
When he was nine, the family spent some time overseas. Aldon slept in a dorm with two other boys, away from his parents. At night, the other boys would engage in simulated sex acts, which Aldon found shocking. They were supposed to be supervised by a minder, but nobody ever came in and stopped them.
Another time the boys were watching some soldiers as they showered. One of the naked men approached Aldon and asked him something. Aldon ran out and went back to their watching post, from where he saw one of the other boys performing oral sex on the soldier.
Back in Australia, Aldon was sent to a high school away from his parents and stayed with a married couple. On his first Saturday night there, a man he knew from the community came to take him out. He drove Aldon to a local school and parked opposite a window where they could see the boarders showering. The man watched and masturbated, but when Aldon showed no interest he drove him home.
‘This was the start of a time where older men would see me as a possible sex partner or friend that might lead to that.’
When Aldon was in his mid-teens, a young man called Neil sexually abused him in a room at their place of worship. He would also often appear when Aldon was attending other community facilities, particularly if he was undressing in a changing room. This went on for a few years, and eventually Aldon stopped going to these places.
He said he realised as an adult that much of this kind of behaviour by Neil and other men around him was grooming.
‘This thing that was meant to be a holy spiritual thing was turned into something quite the opposite … There was a part of me that became used to things happening and there was also a part of me that just became revolted not only with people such as him but also myself as a human being.’
He didn’t disclose the abuse to anybody as he felt there was nobody he could turn to within the religious community – including his parents – and if he went outside the community he would be shunned.
Aldon had begun to feel very unhappy within the faith and what he came to see as an overly restrictive lifestyle which he said created a skewed sense of reality within him. He said he felt very removed from ‘normal life’.
‘Everything was strange. I had shut myself down so much that anything could happen to me and I would just go with it. There was nothing solid for me to grab hold of.’
Aldon began to have overwhelming thoughts of suicide.
As an adult he left the faith and now considers himself ‘anti-theist’. He had a stable career, got married and had children, but his mental health led him into some very dark places. He developed an addiction to explicit material which eventually led to a conviction and jail term.
‘For many years I had been running on empty and part of what I was arrested for was I think part of that whole emptiness that I felt inside of myself.
‘I had shut down so much over the years, I knew there was a huge problem with dissonance. I knew that what I was doing was wrong but I also wanted to prove to the world that I was as bad as I felt inside.’
After his arrest he was put into acute psychiatric care and only then did he disclose the sexual abuse. ‘It was like the floodgates opened.’
Aldon has now finished his sentence and is in regular counselling, but he has ongoing psychological struggles. ‘There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t have to convince myself not to kill myself.’ He said the responsibility he feels to his children is what keeps him going, as well as the glimmer of hope that things won’t always feel this bad.
‘I know that people have been through worse, [and] there are things that I still feel like I should have been able to get over or be where I wanted to be, whereas in fact I feel like I’m only now beginning to put a life together.’