In the 1960s, when Anders was in his early teens, he was sexually abused by Lew Broder, the leader of a Christian youth group. The abuse occurred over a period of about nine months, usually when Anders would get a lift home after a meeting.
When he discovered Broder was also abusing two of his friends, Anders and the boys decided to write to a newspaper advice column.
‘I said we’re in a youth group, and a guy was molesting us … and they wrote back and they said “You must tell your parents, you must go to the police …”.’ But the boys were too frightened and ashamed to say anything.
‘It was enough to deal with as it was without having other people aware of it as well, so I thought there’s nothing to be gained …
‘So it was partly because of that, partly because I thought my father … what he would do to this person. Men of that era and stuff, he had no tolerance for that sort of thing. At all. So the fact I was tainted with it, in some way, shape or form, the fact that I allowed it to happen to me … I found it easier to say nothing.’
The abuse immediately started to take its toll on Anders. ‘I missed 75 per cent of the next year of school, just wagged school all the time. And this drinking and this vandalism and just ... I ended up going to the children’s court. And I got 12 months’ probation because I wouldn’t talk to the guy. The probation officer was so much like this guy, Broder …
‘And he’d threaten me, “Oh, we’ll put you in juvie” and all this and I’d just look at him and say, “See if I care”. ‘Cause I didn’t, that’s the way I was. And no one seemed to see how I was …’
Anders became a different person, going from a shy, quiet boy to someone who ‘wouldn’t take shit from people’.
‘I fought authority all the way. All the way. I never worked for anyone for more than two years. And I’ve had over 30 different jobs. I ended up having to work for myself …’
It was more than 30 years before Anders was able to report the abuse to police. ‘The day my father died I went down there that afternoon. It was phenomenal how it was connected … “because of that I can’t do that” … as soon as you took that away it just came straight out.’
He didn’t press charges but did put Broder’s name on the record. However, having finally spoken about his past, Anders said his life started ‘unravelling’.
‘Fear’s one thing because, if you hide a fear and don’t know what it is, it creates all sorts of nightmares in your life.’
In the 2010s, the police asked him to make a statement. Another boy from the youth group had come forward, a boy Anders didn’t know about at the time.
‘He carried around the cutting, of the newspaper, up until just a few years ago. He’d been carrying it all these years, the letter that I wrote in.’
When Anders gave his statement, he was shocked to discover the police had no record of his original report. And, after being very happy with their initial response, he became extremely frustrated that communication stopped.
Broder was charged, but his lawyer argued he was not fit to stand trial. ‘That’s what lawyers do, they’re trying to get him out so they come up with this. I mean, he was quite cognitive at first. They asked him, “Is this all? Is there anybody else that we need to know about?” He put his hand up for all these other things that they didn’t know about. So he was all helpful up front, of course, then they speak to some lawyer.’
Anders said he knows of at least seven or eight other boys who were abused by Broder.
After three years, during which a jury decided he was fit to stand trial, a judge permanently stayed the case. Anders only found out about this from another survivor. He was never informed by police.
Since then, Anders has continued his work helping others. He believes the abuse has allowed him to connect with people on a spiritual level.
‘I look at it as, life has got a plan. And if you can figure out what is creating the problems and such in your life, and go back in and find that … they’re terrifying things to look at but they’re actual treasures, because if you can embody all of that, then there’s nothing there anymore.’
Anders has never been interested in compensation because he believes that it doesn’t change or fix anything. All he wants is for Broder, and the youth group organisation, to acknowledge what happened.
His recommendation for the Royal Commission was for the creation of safe places where sexual abuse can be disclosed by both survivors and perpetrators. A place where they won’t be judged or ‘drawn and quartered’ but helped and supported. ‘We’re all victims of victims.’
When he spoke to the Commissioner, Anders said he was at ‘the peak’ in his life.
‘If you said, “I can’t go back and change what has happened to you” … I’d say “I wouldn’t want you to”. Because it’s made me the guy I am. And I’ve managed to get through this. It’s been touch and go a lot of times ... many times I was going to check out ... many years, every day battling with it …
‘I’ve been alone all my life. I’ve been alone and never had connections. So for me to be coming out now and connecting with people and they’re accepting me, this is amazing …
‘And that’s why I say this has become a treasure for me, because I’m able to be the thing that was never in my world.
‘I think Gandhi had a saying, “Be that which you see is missing in the world”.’