Allan’s father, a war veteran, was a distant and violent alcoholic, and worked away from home a lot. Allan remembers always trying to be ‘a good boy’ so as not to upset his dad, fearing his mum would bear the brunt of his father’s anger.
There were no other male figures in Allan’s life, and his mother thought he could do with some ‘masculine influence’ and interaction. She enrolled him with their local scout group.
Paul Spears, the scouts leader, was generally thought of by the community as a nice family man. The group met weekly, and Spears also offered Allan and some of the other boys extra tutoring in the garage of his house.
Spears first sexually assaulted Allan during these tutoring sessions, and continued to abuse him frequently over the next 18 months.
Allan didn’t want to tell his father about the abuse, for fear he might kill Spears – ‘And I don’t mean that in a theoretical sense. I mean he will dismember him’. He didn’t want to tell his mother.
‘If I let her know, because she was the one who suggested for me to go to the scouts, she’ll take responsibility for this’. He thinks Spears’s wife may have suspected the abuse that took place in their garage.
The abuse also happened in the boys’ dormitories during overnight trips. Allan tried to avoid going to scout camps, and started wetting the bed as a way of resisting Spears’s actions.
‘I was starting to resist the abuse ... I’d wet the sleeping bag, and wherever else, to try and make it as uncomfortable as possible. I’m a nine-year-old, I have no other weapons at all. He started to get really annoyed with me.’
Although Allan had been ‘one of the favourites, as you imagine, I got all the badges that I ever wanted’, things began to change. The last time Allan went to the camp, Spears insisted they go on a night hike together, at the side of a quarry.
Allan didn’t want to go, but Spears made him, and took him along a narrow pathway without a proper torch. ‘I really feel like for a few minutes there he thought, “I need to get rid of this problem”.’
Spears had Allan walk on the outside edge. ‘He kept saying, “Allan, can you see where the edge is? ... That’s the last thing I remember.’ Allan fell down a 150-foot cliff, sustaining significant injuries.
He required many hospital stays and surgeries, and there was a lengthy court case related to the fall. After the accident, Allan only returned to scouts briefly. Spears stayed away from him and the abuse stopped.
In the years since, Allan has had difficulties with relationships and intimacy. ‘That early sexual contact really confused a lot of things. I don’t even remember having a proper childhood relationship, the girlfriend holding hands, being silly sort of thing – it went almost straight to sex.
‘I didn’t have sex with these girls, when I was young. It kind of felt wrong, because I’d already experienced the teenage, middle-aged sexual act, and so how do you go back to being a child, holding hands?’
Allan doesn’t like people paying attention to him, and often feels threatened and defensive. His education suffered, and the injuries from the accident meant he couldn’t go into his preferred career. At one point he was suicidal, and made a plan to end his life.
When Allan started talking about the abuse, other people he knew began telling him their own experiences. He realised, ‘There are other people that I’ve known, that’ve gone through similar things. This is just wrong’.
His mother told him she and his father had an inkling something had been wrong all those years ago. ‘I never said anything to anybody for 30 odd years, but the moment I started to say, my mother said, “You know, there was a suspicion”.’
Around the time Spears was abusing Allan, his mother had stopped Spears caring for a child who was part of a custody dispute. ‘He was trying to do the right thing, “Oh, you can come and live with me”, and Mum went “No, I’m not having that at all”, and kicked up enough of a stink that he backed off ... She had a suspicion, but she couldn’t prove it because we never talked about it.’
His mother also told him that his father had himself been sexually abused by a priest in high school. Allan realised his father ‘kind of suspected that I’d been abused, but because of his abuse he couldn’t say anything to me, couldn’t ask me outright'.
‘Parents were not taught how to talk to the kids. There I am thinking, “Dad’s going to kill me”, and Dad’s sitting there thinking, “I’ve let the boy down”. And that created this barrier that we couldn’t really ever talk about it.'
Allan has thought about seeking compensation from the scouts, but ‘I’m not really sure it was their fault explicitly’. He would consider taking action if it might help prevent other children being abused, rather than just for the money he could be awarded.
He has not reported the abuse to police, although his mother informed him that Spears had been in prison for sexual offences against other children. She also encouraged Allan to speak to the Royal Commission, and to get some counselling.
‘Thank God for the therapy I’ve had ... I’m working with a guy doing some psychodynamic therapy. And the change it’s had in me is just amazing. I’m back to almost being like I probably should be.’