‘I can’t comprehend it. It just makes me angry, and sick and depressed. The pain it’s caused me throughout my life – like the first girl who tried to get close to me, I ended up in a psych ward ...
‘And when I first talked about it, the police were just sort of like yeah, whatever. You’re over-medicated, and they don’t even have the brains to think that maybe I’m over-medicated ‘cause I’m seeing a psychiatrist that doesn’t believe me either ...
‘It’s just a bad situation. And the damage just goes on and on and on and on.’
In the mid-1980s, when Allan was nine years old, he began attending a Church of England group for boys in the suburbs of Melbourne. It was led by Dan Brownlow who would invite Allan and other boys to his home to watch sporting videos, and would take them away on camps.
One day after playing sport, ‘I had mud on me. Brownlow would take us kids back to the change rooms, which were behind a hall, to get changed and clean. Whilst in the change rooms, he told me that I was dirty and that I had to strip off. Cleaning me up was his way of being able to take advantage of me. He pulled my pants down. He then fondled my genitals’.
Brownlow sexually abused Allan ‘many times’ after this, at the change rooms or his home. ‘I remember white sheets on a bed, and having a bath there. I also remember something being inserted into my anus when I was at his house and on his bed.’
One of Allan’s brothers was also in the boys’ group. ‘He turned out wild. We have not been in contact with each other for a long time. I do not know if he was abused by Brownlow too.’
At high school concerns were raised about Allan’s behaviour, and he was taken to see a counsellor. He told her ‘that I had been abused, but I didn’t say anything else. I shut down’. He disclosed to another counsellor too, but ‘during these sessions, she would look at me and I would look at her. Then I would tell her to fuck off, and I would leave’.
The first time Allan spoke in detail about these incidents was when he was in his early 20s. After his girlfriend ‘tried to get close to me’ (physically) he ‘just totally freaked out’, and was admitted to a psychiatric care facility.
‘Like a normal boy would be, “oh yeah cool, bring it on”, that she’s gone to fondle me. I just totally freaked out – it’s not normal. And then I’ve got to go through all this fucking hell, just to adapt to what is normal, what is right.’
When he tried to talk about the abuse his psychiatrist at the centre ‘shut me down ... said I was making stuff up, and that I was a drug addict and a criminal because I would go to raves on the weekend’.
Allan contacted police then too. ‘It was not good. The police were not interested. I felt extremely discouraged.’ He knows that Brownlow is serving a short prison sentence for sexually abusing other boys. He is furious that police would not charge Brownlow with the offences against him, and so Brownlow would not get a lengthier jail sentence.
Compared to his own life, he feels Brownlow has been let off easily. ‘It’s 29 years that I’ve suffered ... It’s like I’ve lived in jail. I don’t go out and socialise, I don’t leave my flat. It’s too hard for me to go to the pub, for years on end. And even if I do now, it’s a lot of time lost. I can’t replace time.’
A few years ago Allan rang the boys’ group to complain, and was told to contact the Church diocese. He did this, ‘and remained anonymous. I thought I should get a lawyer on my side because I did not trust them’.
The diocese seemed ‘defensive and protective about their members. They sounded like they did not take my complaint seriously, and that it was not important to them’. He now has legal representation, and is working on a compensation claim.
After making such efforts to disclose his abuse to appropriate people – his psychiatrist, the police, the group, the diocese – he remains extremely disappointed by the responses he received. ‘It was like being spat on.’
Allan told the Commissioner that he lives with multiple ongoing mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, sexual problems, and panic attacks, and frequent suicidal ideation and attempts as a result of the abuse. ‘I used to cut my arms and burn cigarette holes into my arm to make the pain in my head go away. I was taking numerous medications.’
He thinks it might have been easier if Brownlow had physically abused him instead. ‘I would prefer to be like, if he came up to me and he stabbed me in the leg ... Then stitched it up, there’s a scar there ... But he’s stabbed me within the basis of my human makeup.’
His schooling was also affected, he had trouble with drug use and criminal offending, and he finds maintaining long-term relationships difficult. Although linked in with therapy and his doctor now, Allan is aware that he needs greater ongoing support – but sometimes fears it may be too late. ‘I think I am too far gone. Maybe a meditation retreat would help me ... instead of sitting in my flat thinking about wanting to escape from everything, hurting myself, or hurting others.’
Allan is angry at Brownlow for what he has taken away from him, and how much of his own life he has spent trying to recover from the impacts of the abuse.
‘Not many people understand this. If I had a choice, and could go back when I was 10, and save myself I would. But you can’t, unfortunately. So, the rest is just history. I’ve got a lot of resentment ... The support’s good, but sometimes I just get pissed off ... It’s like, oh, I’ve got to do this support, I’ve got to do this work. I wouldn’t have to do it if I wasn’t abused.’