Avery's story

‘I feel strong … I can fight now, I taught myself at this boxing gym how to fight. And it sort of did change my life in that way where I’d stand up for myself – and that’s why I’m here.’

Avery grew up in regional Tasmania and was sexually abused in the mid 1960s by a family friend when he was three. This man remained a constant in Avery’s life and would abuse him again when he was slightly older.

His parents separated and Avery lived with his mother. He began acting up. ‘I used to run away from home a fair bit because I didn’t feel secure. I felt safer elsewhere.’

When he was 12, his mother became ill. Avery was made a ward of the state and was placed in a foster home.

‘I was put with this family and it wasn’t the first night, it was the second night. The father, or the adult, he came into my room and it was about midnight – he stuck his hand up under the blankets and he was feeling around my crutch area.’

When Avery asked him what he was doing, the man made the excuse that he was checking to see if Avery had wet the bed. The same thing happened the next night. Avery told his caseworker but nothing happened, so Avery escaped, back to his mother’s house.

He and his mother moved to Melbourne but Avery couldn’t settle. When he was 14 he ran away to Sydney. He couldn’t obtain accommodation and was too young to get a job or receive unemployment benefits. He was told about a Salvation Army men’s shelter where he could find kitchen work and a cheap bed.

When Avery arrived at the shelter he was instructed to meet the manager of the employment services who was also a member of the Salvation Army. The man took Avery into his room, which was an office and sleeping area, and asked Avery to sit on the bed. The man gave Avery hardcore porn and asked him to masturbate while the man watched. The man offered money for the act.

‘I said, “No, I’m right, thank you". Apparently it was a common thing if you needed money … I said, “No, I don’t need the money that bad”.’

Avery worked in the kitchen for a short while and then found employment at a garage. He still went back to the shelter to sleep each night, where he was regularly hassled about the man who had asked him to masturbate. Other young residents had acquiesced to this man and couldn’t understand Avery’s ability to back himself in the situation.

In retribution, one night a group of older boys, some Salvation Army members, assaulted him.

‘One of the fellas king-hit me and busted my eye wide open, and that’s all I remember. I woke up and I was on a bean bag … My pants went down, and I know two boys penetrated me and there was another one. I just couldn’t believe how – they were all just sexual animals … I was praying to God that they would stop.

‘I was told that if I told anyone, they would kill me. I was fearful for my life. I was bedridden for a week. I was bleeding from the anus. As soon as I was better I left. I wanted to go home.’

Avery’s physical damage was extensive and debilitating but the Salvation Army manager wasn’t concerned. He was focused on promoting a well-run centre to guests who were arriving.

‘”Shut your mouth", I was told … I was told to be quiet, not to say nothing and I just did what I was told to do.’

Avery still experiences physical problems from these rapes and has been too ashamed to tell doctors what happened. He also can’t remember how he made it back to Tasmania.

‘It’s taken me so long to glue all the bits back together … people think I’m a bit of an Angry Ant but they don’t understand. I wasn’t really angry – I was scared.’

His temper has meant that Avery has been in and out of jail throughout his adult life. He also still finds it difficult to trust people.

‘Trust was a very big … I couldn’t trust too many people, I just thought everyone was pretty much the same. My father was the only person I reckon I could trust in the world.’

His schooling suffered and as a result his work opportunities have been limited. Avery has never reported his abusers to police and only recently told his mother about the family friend who abused him when he was a child.

‘Talking about this abuse is something I never ever did. I only just started opening up about this, because as far as I’m concerned there are a lot of people that you get harmed from this. But it’s about time he paid and those boys paid.’

He still worries about the threats made against him and has been assaulted in jail but no action was taken against his assailant.

‘That fear factor’s there. Especially if you’re threatened, your family threatened … I’m sick of people doing this … I’m sick of people threatening me. If I did something to someone, I’m the first person that gets charged and locked up; but people seem to think they can do whatever they like to me and get away with it.’

He is interested in compensation but has found counselling unhelpful so far.

‘I really don’t want to go through it. It’s a long time ago. I’ve dug it up, I’m dealing with it. I’ve learnt to deal with it. There was a lot of shame. I felt like, "Was it my fault? Did I do something?" … Thank God not everyone’s like that.’

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