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Bill Kevin's story

Bill was born in a small town in regional Victoria in the 1950s. In his early teens he ‘got involved with the wrong crowd and started doing small crimes including housebreaking and thefts’. At age 14 he was picked up by the police one time too many. He was made a ward of the state and sent to a state-run boys’ home.

Bill never learned to read and write properly, but with help from his wife, Margaret, he managed to record his experiences in a statement that he brought to his session at the Royal Commission.

In the statement Bill described how a group of boys bashed him on his first night at the home. They continued to dish out regular bashings over the next few months until finally Bill cornered their ringleader alone one day. The ringleader quickly backed down and asked Bill if he wanted to join the gang. Bill refused but was never bashed again.

Bill said that some of the staff at the home ‘were quite good, and others were quite cruel’. The cruellest was a young man with black hair and ‘a bit of pot belly’. Bill always referred to him as ‘warden’ or ‘sir’ and never knew his name. At least once a week, this man would trap Bill alone in the showers and rape him.

‘He would threaten me with bashings or worse rapes if I ever complained about what he was doing. After being raped, I would run to my room crying. My roommate was a boy named Glen, whom I became good friends with. We would talk about the rapes together. This staff member was also raping Glen. Glen was a couple of years older than me, and would advise me not to say anything because it would just get worse.’

During this time, Bill attended the on-site high school at the home. His teacher was a young man who was ‘absolutely hopeless’ and taught Bill nothing. This teacher also groped Bill in class and in the swimming pool change rooms.

‘He would put his hand inside my pants and masturbate my penis. He would say things like, “You like this, don’t you?” He would keep masturbating my penis until I ejaculated. Before he made me ejaculate for the first time, I had never ejaculated before. I was disgusted and terrified by the sexual assaults.’

Like the rapes, this abuse occurred about once a week for the whole of Bill’s six-month stay at the home. Bill was then transferred to an Anglican hostel in Melbourne. That was the end of his schooling. Still only 14 years old, he was sent to work full time. This might not have been so bad except that Bill had to give almost all of his pay to the man who ran the hostel.

Every chance he got, this man would grab Bill’s legs and crotch. Having to endure more sexual abuse on top of financial exploitation made Bill furious. ‘I was paying for the “privilege” of being abused’, he said.

Bill left the hostel for good when he was 18. He saved his money and travelled all around Australia with some mates. He found a stable job, got married and had several kids. A few years later the marriage ended in divorce. Bill went through another rocky relationship before he found Margaret.

They’ve stuck together after many years but it hasn’t been easy. Margaret said, ‘We’ve almost separated on several occasions because of his behaviour, I’ll be honest. He’s been a very difficult person to live with. But he’s also a lovely person, so that’s why I’m sitting here with him. But he doesn’t believe that. I can tell him 50 times a day and he doesn’t believe me’.

Bill said that the abuse has had ‘a great impact’ on his life.

‘For my whole adult life, I have been unable to sleep properly. I wake up more or less hourly. I think about the abuse all the time. I still picture it in my mind every day, especially the sexual abuse at [the state-run home]. I also picture the sexual abuser … abusing my friend, Glen. I remember how I felt at the time, like killing him, but powerless to do anything. Glen committed suicide as a result of the sexual abuse …

‘I have always felt a deep sense of shame about the abuse, even though I know that I should not feel this way. I feel so angry and sad that, although I deserved to be locked up at the time, I did not deserve to be sexually assaulted.’

These days, Bill receives ongoing support from Margaret and from his counsellor. He finds it helpful to talk about the abuse and get it off his chest. He also gets good therapy from working on his car.

‘I just like to go out there, it’s nice and quiet, and just work on the car. It takes my mind off a few things but not everything.’

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