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Brendon's story

Brendon was happy when he joined the scouting movement at age eight. He was there with his best friend and he enjoyed the activities. His troop leader, Jim, was his best friend’s father and a good friend of Brendon’s parents, and Brendon felt comfortable being around him.

Brendon was first sexually abused on scout camps. Jim would stand naked behind the boys in the communal showers but nobody thought much of it. Then, Brendon told the Commissioner, ‘He’d start talking to me in the tent, pat my leg, ask me questions about wet dreams’.

Brendon said Jim separated him from ‘the pack’ shortly after this by offering him a lift home. Jim would drop his own children off first, then drive Brendon to an isolated area and abuse him. The abuse started with kissing and masturbation and progressed to oral and anal sex.

The abuse also happened when Brendon slept over at his friend’s house. He said Jim’s wife knew what was going on, because she witnessed it.

‘One day he was doing stuff to me in the back shed and his wife walked in. She just stood there and shook her head and walked out … I was mortified and embarrassed – it was like nothing happened. I’m sure she must have known.’

Brendon said he has wondered if he was ‘sacrificed’ to save Jim’s own children from abuse, almost as a way to keep the family together.

When he was 12, Brendon became friends with another boy, who he told about the abuse. ‘He said, “Don’t tell anybody or they’ll think you’re a poofter”. So I kept it locked up for the rest of my life.’

Despite the abuse, Brendon continued to attend scouts. He explained his feelings to the Commissioner: ‘You reach an acceptance point and you just go, well, it could be worse. If I do this he’ll leave me alone. So it gets to that point where you go “This is what I do. I go to scouts. This guy’s going to sodomise me then he’s going to take me home … and that’s just the way it goes”’.

The abuse stopped when Brendon left school and moved away.

When he was 18, Jim came to find him. He wanted Brendon to come to his hotel, but while Brendon agreed to meet, he refused to have sex. Brendon didn’t know that Jim was already in the process of being moved out of the scouting movement, as other allegations had started to surface.

A week later, Brendon phoned his mother, who told him Jim had hanged himself. Brendon then told his mother about the abuse and they cried together on the phone. However, as time went on it became something they didn’t talk about. He didn’t tell his father until many years later, after his mother had died.

After Jim’s suicide, Brendon said he locked himself away emotionally, working long hours and in remote locations where he didn’t need to interact much with other people, particularly men. He drank heavily.

He continues to have difficulty with people in positions of authority, telling the Commissioner, ‘I just freak out. It’s caused me a lot of problems in my career. And in my personal life because I try and avoid conflict’.

He married and had two children, but the abuse affected all his relationships.

‘It cost me my wife, it cost me my children … I realised that my life was empty and we ended up separating. I felt I’d failed as a father.’

Over the years Brendon made some attempts to seek help, including with the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC). But he felt he wasn’t ready to deal with the abuse at that time and ‘put it in a box and focused on work’.

When he told his new partner about the abuse she helped him get counselling, which brought up a lot of strong feelings. He started having flashbacks at work and couldn’t function, and he got sacked. Since then Brendon has struggled to get another job because he can’t get a good reference.

Two years ago he reported the abuse to the Scouts. He said they were very kind and sympathetic and apologised for the incidents – something Brendon is grateful for – but told him when it happened they had a different insurance company and all the records had been burnt. The current insurance company would not cover historical events so there would be no compensation, which Brendon found extremely disappointing.

He reported the abuse to police about the same time and they said Jim’s name was known to them. However, he was told that he was too late for any action to be taken through victims of crime compensation.

Brendon suffers daily from anxiety caused by the abuse, with multiple health problems exacerbated by the stress of severe financial pressure. He can’t pay his mortgage and fears losing his home. He has considered suicide in the past.

Now in his early 50s, Brendon says he feels like his ‘use-by date’ has gone and he just wants to be back to how he was, before the abuse. ‘What I want is to be able to sleep at night without waking up my wife from tossing and turning. To stop having flashbacks, to be able to get a job and get on with my life. That’s all I want.’

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