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Barnaby's story

Hugo Sloane was very particular about the people he gave jobs to at his southern Sydney movie theatre. ‘He employed young boys to be ushers, projectionists, and work in the candy bar. It was just a smorgasbord for him’, Barnaby recalled.

At 14 Barnaby was the youngest of them all when he started as an assistant projection officer, in the early 1980s. Although Sloane was in his late 20s, his girlfriend was 14 too.

Barnaby’s parents had divorced when he was small. He stayed living with his mum, who then married a man who drank heavily and physically assaulted the two of them.

Sloane become like an uncle to Barnaby. He would drive him home after work, and after a while started giving him wine, and showering him with compliments.

As things progressed, Sloane would kiss Barnaby and rub his thigh. He took Barnaby to his house, where he showed him pornography and paraded around naked. In the cinema’s projection room, Barnaby was fondled and masturbated by his boss.

Barnaby just froze, which for years made him feel like he was somehow to blame.

‘That was my biggest problem. Because I froze, and I let him do that to me. Even though I was 14, and I was attracted to girls. I hated myself for that.’

As a result of the abuse, Barnaby questioned his sexuality, and found himself heading down a self-destructive path.

‘I thought I was gay, and I knew I wasn’t, but then I started taking drugs, because I was making good money at the picture theatre so I started taking drugs straight away. Drinking, hanging around all these bad people, smoking cigarettes, and just my grades went down. I was getting in trouble all the time, I was telling teachers where to go. Just, yeah, wasn’t good.’

The abuse continued for the next two years, until Barnaby got an apprenticeship and stopped working at the theatre. It was a long time before he told anyone what Sloane had done to him.

Barnaby was married in his early 20s, but the marriage didn’t last. He maintains an ‘awesome’ relationship with his ex-wife and kids though, and ensured their children’s upbringing was better than his. ‘Just totally different [to] the way I was brought up ... Always encouraging them, always praising them. And they’re really, really good kids.’

After a suicide attempt one Christmas in the late 1990s, Barnaby went to stay with his mother. He disclosed the abuse to her for the first time, and she was upset but supportive.

Over the next decade or so he was admitted to mental health facilities a couple of times. He asked Community Services for assistance with finding support, but they weren’t any help, so he searched himself and saw private practitioners.

Counselling has helped him a lot, including giving him an understanding of why he ‘froze’ when Sloane abused him. ‘It was good, early it was good. Because it was different, and I was getting a lot off my chest.’ He walked out of sessions ‘with a little bit less weight on my shoulders’.

In the early 2000s, Barnaby reported Sloane to the police station near the cinema. The detective who interviewed him at length was very good, and Barnaby was also interviewed in his local area.

He was the first person to report Sloane, and a year later was devastated and angry to be informed that the prosecution would not be going ahead. ‘After I reported him, he still went and re-offended. That’s what hurts me the most.’

Several years passed, and the police contacted Barnaby again. Other victims had come forward, and it had been decided that Sloane would now be charged. The charges against Sloane were split into two trials, each with multiple victims. In one, he was acquitted.

The other, which included Barnaby's matter, was declared a mistrial, and then retried. Sloane was represented by three QCs.

‘The whole court case is just horrifying, the way it starts off with x amount of charges, and then they can barter off things, and then they get this, and then he could adjourn the case. He just ran it like a three ring circus, he did, because he had money.’

Barnaby is grateful for the excellent support the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) provided throughout the trial. When Sloane was found guilty and given a sentence generally considered lenient, this attracted a lot of attention. The sentence was appealed by the DPP, which resulted in more years being added to it.

Throughout this time, Barnaby had continued to receive counselling. It wasn’t always easy, particularly early on when it seemed Sloane might not be charged, but he is glad he persevered. ‘I was still doing it, but nothing was working. I’d just go to appease my family and friends. But then, what I do say is, all those sessions I did go through, when he did finally get found guilty ... It all clicked.’

He recently sought legal representation and took civil action against Sloane. The matter settled out of court, and Barnaby received a six-figure payment. Some of this settlement was used to pay back compensation previously awarded by Victims of Crime. He shared some with his ex-wife and their kids, and the remainder helped him purchase a home.

Barnaby now advocates for sentencing reform, in consideration of the ‘life sentence’ child sexual abuse imposes on survivors. ‘Anyone who touches a child should serve a mandatory sentence of 25 years minimum. In the case of an abuser like Sloane, ‘there’s a plethora of victims, just for one person. And that affects not only those victims, but all the victims’ families’.

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