As a young boy Bart planned to make a career in the Australian Defence Force. At 13 he signed up for cadets in his town. One of the instructors, Karl Oxley, took a special interest in him.
‘The first year … there would be grooming. So he was nice, he was always approachable, always giving gifts and advice and this and that, arm around the shoulder.’ By the second year Oxley’s touching was becoming more frequent and his conversation more explicit. Bart remembers, ‘The insidiousness of insinuation and innuendo all the time. I didn’t know there was anything different. I was quite naive as a teenager’.
Bart lived out of town. His family began to rely on Oxley to get Bart home from cadets on the weekend. Then Bart began staying overnight at Oxley’s house. One Saturday night in the second year of cadets Bart was up late with Oxley, watching TV and drinking alcohol. Oxley put on a gay pornographic video. Bart left and went to bed in an adjoining room. He slept, but awoke to find Karl Oxley next to him, masturbating. Oxley then rolled Bart over and fellated him. The next morning Oxley said nothing about the incident. He drove Bart home.
‘Pretty much every school term Saturday night the abuse would happen,’ Bart told the Commissioner. ‘That took the form of being given beer, then taking to bed, being stripped and essentially raped.’
The abuse escalated quickly and continued for three years. ‘Being young when it first started and growing up in that it didn’t feel right, but as a kid you don’t know it’s not right. Until the end of Year 12 and you’re doing sex ed and they say, “By the way if these things happen to you you should report it”. And I was dumbfounded because that had been happening to me for years.’
Bart tried to tell his mother about the abuse at this time. He was not believed. ‘My mother insinuated I was gay, or jealous of Karl or something. From that moment on I felt I couldn’t trust my parents or my family with anything like this.’
Bart believes his schooling suffered. ‘It was chalk and cheese between the sort of child I was in Grade 10 to the sort of child I was in Grade 11.’ Bart failed his intermediate exams and began ‘acting out’ at school. He remembers attacking a boy in a sudden fit of rage. But Bart realised he had to pull himself together to pass his final exams and reach his goals.
Bart studied harder and succeeded. He graduated from high school and joined the ADF. Only then did he escape from Karl Oxley and three years of sexual exploitation.
The effects of the abuse have been with Bart for 25 years. He doesn’t like to be in crowds. He doesn’t enjoy going out at night. He has suffered from anxiety and depression.
‘The anxiety builds up almost to the point where I’d be catatonic … I would come home and just sit in my armchair and I couldn’t engage.’ Bart feels his wife has suffered nearly as much as he has. It was in an argument with her in 2003 that Bart finally blurted the truth about his abuse, the first he had spoken of it in over 10 years.
Since then Bart has sought help from counsellors. He believes he’ll need monthly counselling for a long time. ‘I’m getting tools to manage the emotion and the distress. It’s working … I’ll never be free of it, but I’ll be able to control it much better.’
Bart has also taken his story to a police taskforce and helped in the prosecution of Karl Oxley. Oxley escaped conviction that time, and Bart still suffers when he sees Oxley in town, in the distance. But Bart does not regret his day in court.
‘I was just glad that I could tell my story, stand up in the community and tell my story. It helped me a lot to do that. It reconciled a lot of things in my mind and in my heart. A long way to go for me. But that was good.’