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Anthony Cal's story

‘When you retire, you have more time to reflect on things, and having grandchildren sort of has an impact on you as well. These things that happened, you know, 40-plus years ago, they started to come a bit more forward in my mind.’

In the 1970s, when Anthony was about 15 or 16, he became involved with a regional Victorian YMCA youth group. He helped run exercise classes for young children and weekly activities for older children on week nights. In the ‘colder, darker months’, the adult leader of the group would drive Anthony home.

‘After the second or third time, he would stop a reasonable distance from my house and then start conversations of a sexual nature. I really didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on. Then he would start to fondle me and try and get an erection and an ejaculation. I guess I didn’t really know what to do … And then it happened a couple more times.’

The man would also make excuses so Anthony would have to go to his house to plan activities for the groups. ‘That was an excuse for more abuse’. When Anthony went on YMCA camping trips, he was again abused by the man.

One day at school, Anthony was talking to some of the other boys involved with the YMCA and they all realised that each of them was being abused by the man. None of the boys knew what to do so they sought advice anonymously and were told to tell their parents. Anthony doesn’t ‘think anyone did … I wouldn’t have known how to’.

The man groomed and threatened Anthony and the other boys.

‘He was using other levers too. Alcohol. He would take us out to isolated hotels. One time he showed me a pistol in his glove box of the car, and I thought, “What is that supposed to mean?” There [was] all sorts of … coercion.’

As a young adult Anthony rushed into marriage because of his fears of being gay.

‘[It] made me think I'm a homosexual … you know, “Why are men attracted to me? What's going on?” So, I think I … rushed into my first marriage too quickly, just to … affirm my sexuality.’

The marriage didn’t last, ‘it wasn’t a comfortable relationship’. At the time, Anthony wasn’t really sure why it broke down.

In recent years, by pursuing the man through the criminal justice system, Anthony has been able to reflect on the impact of the abuse through the process of making statements to police and writing a victim impact statement. He now realises that even his career choice was affected by the abuse.

‘I think in terms of my relationship with men, I didn't trust men a lot. So I didn't really get involved in sport. I worked in situations where … I was in charge of women … I think, that, reflecting back, that was that mistrust of adult men … You don’t realise it’s always sort of digging away underneath.’

Anthony opened up about his experiences to his current wife and then to his children and his siblings. ‘It just got too big in my head to keep it there, so I told them all, and they're very supportive.’

The abuser was charged with child sexual offences but the case didn’t proceed, which was a great disappointment for Anthony. He is currently pursuing compensation from the YMCA through a civil claim. He knows, and police have confirmed, that others in the organisation knew of the man’s behaviour but ‘people just turned a blind eye’.

Anthony wants the YMCA to be much more rigorous and transparent about the management of children in their care. ‘I think they just need a bit of a torch under them to make sure their processes are right.’

He wonders why it has taken him so many years to tell his story, but realises that times have changed and attitudes towards sexual abuse have changed with them.

‘Why didn't I act on it when my children were young? Why did it sort of take grandchildren to … spark an action? … I guess I've had a bit more time to reflect, we've had little young kids around and I don’t want that to happen to them.

‘I think that, combined with the … media, reporting of this every day … the paper, TV, radio, social media, you can't get away from it.’

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