At primary school Artie was small for his age and suffered at the hands of bullies. He joined a sports club in his suburb, hoping to find fun and friends outside his classroom. Half a century on, Artie is still dealing with those few months of his life.
‘I don’t want to remember’, Artie told the Commissioner. ‘But I can remember exactly what happened when I was 11. Exactly.’
Gordon coached the younger players at the sports club; never anyone older than 15. He was in his fifties or sixties and lived alone. Gordon had built a gym underneath his home and he encouraged children from the club to come around and train. ‘I remember the times I went there – there would’ve been between six and 10 kids training.’
‘The first time I went there he gave me things to do on the exercisers and then he asked me to go up to his room … It was a very small room with a bed in there. And basically he just tells you to strip down to your underpants and then he just measures you and takes photos of you.’
‘Back then you didn’t speak about sex, didn’t speak about anything. Nothing was ever spoken so we were naive back in those days.’
Artie walked up the stairs with Gordon six or eight times. Artie would strip and Gordon would touch him as he took measurements and photographs. ‘He’d get you doing poses like people do for body-building.’ With each visit the touching became more explicit.
Artie found the fondling strange and felt awkward. He stopped going to the sports club and Gordon’s gym. Other children from the club started approaching Artie at school. ‘They’d say, “Gordon wants to see you”, and straight away I’d feel really uncomfortable.’ The messages kept coming. ‘He wants to see you … If he doesn’t he’ll come and see you and wants to know why you’re not coming back.’
Artie is in his 60s but traces his concern with security back to that time. ‘It’s left me with a complex … I’m chronic about locking doors. I mean chronic. I always thought he was going to come through the window … It scared the life out of me.’
‘He’s dead and gone but he’s left me with this. I’ve heard judges say, “Okay they’re young, they’ll grow out of it”. You don’t.’
‘Growing up was hard. I didn’t like school. I just lost the plot completely … Just wanted to leave school and go to work.’
Artie has had a lifelong battle with depression which he blames on his abuse.
‘Up to a few years ago I was very angry. I’d just get angry very quickly. My wife told me, “You’ve got to calm down”. Anything ticks me off. And it did then.’
‘When I had children I could not take my eyes off them … I was super vigilant. With grandchildren too. In the park there are parents around, but you don’t know who else.’
Artie kept the trauma bottled up for decades. Eventually he told his wife he’d been abused. ‘I never told my parents. But I had to tell someone because it was eating me up from inside. So we’re driving along one day and I got her to drive … It’s so hard to come out and say it. I told her. I broke down and I told her. And she was shocked. So shocked.’
‘She just stopped the car and she had to ask me a few times, “What are you talking about?” So it took a long time to for me to say it, and once I said it I felt better because I’d finally told someone.’
Artie has also shared his story with his three children, who are very supportive.
He is sure times have changed and is hoping the work of the Royal Commission will save other children from the kind of abuse he suffered. ‘Here’s a man who coached juniors, he had children going back to his place, never had a wife, they would work out at a gym at his place … I look back now and I think, “Jeez, you can tick all the boxes there, can’t you”? … If that was today you’d think, “Wow, there’s something wrong here”.’