Bill Sam's story

‘It’s just really difficult to deal with because there’s no going back … and changing that.’

When Bill was 11 or 12 years old, his parents sent him to an internationally regarded Christian camp in regional Western Australia. The camp lasted five days. During the week Bill was physically and sexually abused by the camp bus driver.

‘It started off he was sort of physically abusive in so much that he just used to slap me quite a bit … on about three separate occasions … the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, I think.’

Bill was upset by the man’s behaviour and told one of the camp leaders about the assaults.

‘She said something along the lines of, “He’s just playing around”.’

On the last night of the camp, the man followed Bill into the boys’ toilets and forced his way into the cubicle. After locking the door, he sexually assaulted Bill.

‘I just didn’t understand what was happening, to be honest. My family is very Christian … we weren’t ever told much about sex or anything … so I didn’t really know what was happening. It was confusing really … I was still scared and I just didn’t understand it.’

The next day the camp finished and Bill went home. He told his parents that he hadn’t been ‘treated well’ at the camp but, because the camp had cost quite a lot of money, his father didn’t want to hear any details.

‘I try not to think about it really. It’s not as bad as what some people have gone through [but] it changed a lot … It’s really messed quite a lot of things up.’

Bill began to self-harm and his schooling suffered, as he missed out on much of the last years of school. This was unusual for him as he had been a gifted student prior to the abuse.

When Bill was 16 years old, he told his mother about the bus driver’s physical abuse. She contacted the Christian organisation that ran the camp but their response was to invite Bill and his abuser to a meeting to discuss his claims. Bill couldn’t agree to their request.

Bill has had many girlfriends from a young age.

‘I didn’t feel very much like I wanted to admit that [the sexual abuse] happened. I sort of felt as if … I may be gay or something … it made me feel the very opposite of masculine … I sort of tried to deny that it happened and I just became hyper-focused on women … as a way to compensate.’

By his middle teens he was in a relationship with an older woman. They married before he was 20 years old but the marriage was short lived. Bill hit a low period and tried to take his own life. It was after this that Bill disclosed the sexual abuse, first to a nurse, then to a psychiatrist and then to his parents.

‘I feel like there’s … something inherently wrong with me because – not because of what happened but because I was targeted. I feel like there must have been something I’d done wrong … People say, “You couldn’t have done something wrong, you were 12”, but thinking back on it, I could have done more.’

In the years since, Bill has been seeing a psychologist every few weeks and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and PTSD. The abuse has impacted significantly on his life.

‘The biggest part is probably just relationships … I sleep with people to make myself feel better and I hardly know them and it just creates problems.

‘I don’t think of women as sex objects, I think of myself as one and I put myself out there to be available … People build an identity of me … this facade of being hyper-masculine and hyper-sexual and it’s just not who I am.’

He has extensive scars from self-harming and has issues with his appearance and weight.

‘I’m never happy with myself. I just want to change myself so I’m not the same person. I know people say you’re big and intimidating but I still feel like I’m the same 12-year-old boy sometimes. It doesn’t really go away.’

Bill also has a history of drug use.

‘[The drugs] just took everything that happened and put it in a box and said you don’t have to deal with this today and that was good enough for me.’

With the support of his mother, Bill has received victims of crime compensation from the Western Australian Government.

‘We actually won a compensation claim for it, which I found very, very hard to do. We were doing it for two and half years and just all the way through it I wanted to say, “Look, I’m lying about it, I made it up” because I didn’t want to believe it happened … I just wanted to say to people, “Drop it, I don’t want to do it anymore”.’

While he is happy that his victims of crime compensation case was upheld, he is also ambivalent about the money he was awarded.

‘It’s hard for me to come to terms with because I feel a bit [like] it’s sort of dirty money in the sense of what I had to do to get it … it doesn’t take it [the abuse] away. I felt good about getting the claim successful because it meant someone who was impartial to me validated what I’d been through … the money part of it, I just want to get rid of it. I don’t really want it.’

Bill is interested in holding the camp organisation to account as he believes it would help him to know that their current procedures around child safety have significantly improved. The police want him to pursue the man through the criminal justice system but Bill doesn’t believe he is strong enough to appear in court as yet.

‘I know it sounds really stupid but the only compensation I want is five minutes alone with him … I just get really angry about it sometimes.’

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