As a young boy growing up in 1930s Melbourne, Basil participated in a number of youth groups and recreational activities run by different local churches. These groups gave children ‘something to do at night during the war’, and you didn’t need to belong to the particular church to be involved.
From the age of 10 he attended a gym run by the Church of England Boys Club in the south-east, which was located on the same block as the church building. The instructor, Tim Garfield, would teach boys boxing and other sports, and sometimes took them on excursions.
Basil remembers that Garfield was single, in his 40s, and had never moved out of home.
‘He was a likeable bloke. He knocked around with us boys, and he took us boys out. During the war, Mum and Dad were busy.’
Garfield sexually abused Basil three times. Each of these incidents followed the same pattern, and occurred at the sports auditorium when they were watching other teams play. The instructor would put his hands up into Basil’s shorts, and fondle his genitals. ‘I didn’t know what was happening. I was a young boy. I didn’t know anything about sexual things, and what he’d done ... I didn’t have a clue what was going on.’
After the third incident Basil told his mother about the abuse, ‘I said to Mum, this man, our gym instructor is playing with my penis. Oh, she got upset’. Although she immediately became angry, his mother ‘didn’t explain any more to be about it’, so he remained confused about what had happened. He was banned from attending that particular gym, so did not see Garfield again, but continued going to other groups.
As far as Basil knows, Garfield’s behaviour was not reported to the Church or other authorities. ‘I often wondered about that, if I’m the only one. I’m sure there are more boys.’ He noted that even though Garfield molested him over 70 years ago, he still thinks about it sometimes, feeling upset and losing sleep when he does so.
Basil can’t remember whether he mentioned the abuse to his wife when she was alive, but has recently disclosed to his daughter. ‘I don’t want to worry about it anymore, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore ... If you get it off your chest, you’re better off’.