In the late 1950s, the death of Beverley’s father, a World War II veteran, was a shock.
‘My poor mother found his body. His death meant she had to work 45 hour weeks, so I virtually lost two parents.’
In need of help while she worked, Beverley’s mother turned to Sydney Legacy where she met Giles Fowler.
‘Giles became our Legatee to be a bit of support, mainly to see how I was going. He would have been in his late 40s, and lived above the bank where I had to go and visit him. Whenever his wife left the room, he’d fondle my breasts and tell me I was becoming a big girl, or pick me up and touch my genitals usually from behind to front. I’d squirm and he’d say, “That’s not being a nice girl, won’t you give me a hug?” When I sat doing my homework, he’d rub his penis on my shoulder, or try to kiss me.’
Beverley said Giles would only sexually abuse her when his wife was in the kitchen, and if she came back into the room, he’d make it appear they were ‘playing a tickling game’.
‘I used to tell my mother I hated seeing him but she said we had to be nice to him and were to be grateful that Legacy was looking after us.’
Beverley recalled that from the mid-1960s at the Anglican Sunday school she attended, a Church Fellowship leader, Graeme Snell, also started touching her inappropriately. She was then aged in her early teens.
‘His pattern included coming up behind me, putting his hands over my eyes and pressing his body against mine. He’d sometimes put his arms around my waist, and often try to kiss me.
‘I’d say, “Don’t Graeme!” He’d whisper compliments in my ear saying how clever I was and how talented and pretty, he wore dentures and would always be salivating. He was a complete and total predator.’
When Beverley was 16, Giles moved away, and two years later Graeme married and moved interstate and she didn’t see either of the men again until Graeme showed up in the 1990s at the home she shared with her husband and two-year-old daughter. He continued to visit periodically for a number of years.
‘I had very poor boundaries. When I separated from my husband he started to come around more, but when I moved I didn’t give him my new address. I’m sure he would have abused my daughter, he would say, “Such a terrible thing to happen to such a lovely little girl” about my husband and me splitting up.’
Beverley never reported the abuse to authorities, as she didn’t believe anyone could help her.
‘Years on from the abuse, others my age who were in the Church told me they thought I was probably being raped by Graeme. I was very angry that the Church community thought that and yet was prepared to let it go on. I’m a committed Christian and I know God is angry at those who are entrusted to represent his servants and abuse and cause to stumble the very ones God loves so much, the little children.’
Now in her 60s, Beverley is keen to seek justice.
‘I want to see them punished, but I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive. I want an apology from Legacy and compensation from both the institutions. I was robbed of the freedom to enjoy my youth, the company of friends and innocent fun in the Fellowship. That’s a lot of years stolen.’
Beverley told the Commissioner she intended to report the sexual abuse to police.
‘If anything else needs to be done to protect children then let it be done. I was frozen by fear and shame. It has to stop.’