‘Part of me exposing this fellow and taking him to court was so I’m not carrying something around on my shoulders. And I always thought that I did the wrong thing, ’cause it felt good and things like that. As I got older I realised, no, what a shame on that person.’
In the early 1970s, when Benjamin was around seven years old, he went swimming at the public pool with mates. While in the water he was approached by Reverend Thomas Eggers, a local Anglican minister in their regional Queensland town.
Eggers ‘started talking, and started groping me’, which was observed by a friend’s older brother. When Benjamin went into the change room to have a shower, Eggers followed, and exposed himself to him. The older boy came in and interrupted, taking Benjamin away.
Benjamin’s family was fractured, and he started to run away from home. After the incident at the pool, he would often see Eggers driving around the streets. Eggers offered to buy Benjamin food and let him stay at his house, telling him ‘I’m a man of the cloth. I’ll look after you’.
As he had already met Eggers, he didn’t feel suspicious of him. ‘Because I’d had dealings with him before, I wasn’t really afraid to talk to him or anything, ’cause when he groped me and that in the pool, well you know, no shame about it – it felt good.’
When Eggers bought him a meal from a new fast food restaurant, he was excited. After collecting the food from the drive-through, Eggers drove Benjamin out into the bush and sexually abused him. ‘That was the first time he initialised me to play with his penis.’
While Eggers never threatened him, he would say he expected Benjamin ‘to do something for me’ in return for this support. ‘I don’t think you’d class that as threatening. More manipulative maybe.’
Benjamin continued living with Eggers on and off, and was subjected to regular sexual abuse until he was 14. ‘One time he did try to penetrate, yes. It just evolved slowly ... It was like, what the heck?’
Throughout this time Benjamin had stayed at school, and by Year 8 started to notice other boys interacting with girls. He wondered ‘what am I doing? And I started thinking about those events’.
The sexual abuse continued until Benjamin went to live with his mother in another town. He started smoking a lot of cannabis to cope with what had happened, and remembers feeling triggered by anyone who looked like Eggers.
In his early 20s Benjamin became a stepfather, and was overprotective of his partner’s kids. ‘I was very protective of them girls, like no uncles are sleeping here, you know, and if that uncle does sleep here he’s out the back there, locked outside.’
When some time later a family member told him that Eggers had been made head of a local service for homeless boys, he decided to disclose the abuse. ‘And I said ... he’s a no-good man, he’s actually made sexual advances with me.’
Benjamin contacted the police child exploitation unit, and made a formal statement. He learned that many other allegations of child sexual abuse had already been made against Eggers, dating back a couple of decades.
Eggers was charged, and Benjamin gave evidence at the trial. Giving this testimony brought up complex feelings. Even though he recognised that Eggers had sexually abused him, ‘I felt bad that I was convicting him for him making me feel good. It was a very confusing thing to deal with’.
The court was full of parishioners who supported Eggers, and whispered about Benjamin so he could hear them. This made the process even more difficult, and the matter moved to a different court as a result of this intimidation.
Benjamin’s mum learned of the abuse through this trial. ‘She was quite shocked ... I think once she knew that she probably realised where a lot of my problems came from.’
Eggers was convicted, and received an 18-month sentence. ‘I thought, you’ve got to be joking.’
Benjamin tried to pursue a civil compensation claim. He went for a psychological evaluation as part of this process, but because he was working and in a relationship he was told ‘You’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you’. He could not afford to pay to obtain the results of this assessment, and his claim was never submitted.
The ongoing impacts of the sexual abuse have included an inability to trust people, a disrespect for authority, nightmares, and being uncomfortable if he is touched. Over the years he has questioned his sexual orientation. ‘Do I want to have a relationship with another fellow, or something? I have had those thoughts, not that I’ve acted on them.’
Benjamin has a lengthy criminal history, mostly related to drugs, and spoke to the Commissioner from prison. He wants people to know it is okay to talk about abuse. ‘I have no problem to tell my story, because I wouldn’t want anyone else not to talk about it because they feel like they’re in the wrong.’
Now he tries not to think about the abuse too much, and to work on his own strengths. ‘I’ve never been the one to sit there and ponder, well this happened to me, what a poor thing I am you know ... I’ve tried to pursue things to help myself too. Like doing anger management ... It’s all about core beliefs, and it’s a neural thing, got to try and create new paths.’