Barton grew up in regional New South Wales, by his own description ‘a pretty level-headed kid’. When his father left, in the early 1970s, Barton was eight years old. As the oldest child he was most aware of his parents fighting, and remembers it as a very difficult separation.
Barton was badly bullied throughout most of his school days, and found an outlet in sport and cubs, which he joined at the age of nine. A few years later he went on to scouts.
Barton was first sexually abused on a scout camp. One night, one of the scout leaders got him alone and started touching his genitals and masturbating him. Barton believes he was targeted because he was more physically developed than the other boys his age.
‘I wanted to die after this on the way back in the car. It was like that for a long, long time …
‘The fact I got an erection as well was abhorrent to me …
‘We really looked up to this guy. He was the cool scout leader out of all the scout leaders.’
When Barton was a little older, he was abused again by the scout leader and warned against telling anybody. But Barton was too frightened to talk. ‘I was just terrified. I couldn’t tell my parents, my mum and my stepfather, because I just felt so guilty …
‘It was horrendous. I just felt absolute guilt, shame, fear that people would find out.’
Barton described the impact of the abuse as ‘horrific’. His grades began to suffer and he went from being a normal boy to someone who was constantly moody and aggressive.
‘I was angry. Angry that a person that I really trusted and probably loved in a way, looked up to, an adult that takes an interest in you and then abuses that.’
He stopped caring about school and threw himself into working, then joined the defence force as soon as he was old enough. He left that after a few years and went from one job to another.
In his late twenties, trying to numb the pain was no longer working and Barton finally told his mother about the abuse. ‘I was in a bad way, a bad place emotionally. I was taking drugs, and I confessed to Mum why I was the way I was, what happened to me at school.’
After that Barton tried to get professional help but he didn’t trust the counsellors and stopped after a short time.
Since the abuse Barton has been suspicious of and often hostile to people in authority. ‘I think I’ve lost every single job I’ve ever had. I’m not a violent person at all, my words are what I use, and that’s when my mouth gets me into trouble.
‘I’m angry all the time.’
Over the last 15 years Barton stopped using drugs and started his own business. ‘I’m much better working for myself.’ He also became a husband and father. ‘I think I’m a better parent because of what’s happened to me. I think it makes me far more aware of the dangers out there.’
With the help of his family, Barton is trying to put his anger and a lot of ‘pretty dark days’ behind him. ‘I don’t give up. I love being alive.’