Callum was placed in foster care in the mid-1980s, when he was around 10 years old. His parents’ marriage had broken down earlier and for a while he’d lived with his grandparents in regional Victoria. After his grandfather died, he was made a ward of the state.
He was sent to live with carers in a two storey house, with half a dozen other kids. He didn’t like it there, as the carers played favourites with some children while he ‘was treated like a piece of dirt’. Consequently he spent as much time as he could away from the home.
One time when he was 11, he and his cousin were attempting to procure some alcohol. They asked a woman they met if she could help them. Her name was Patricia, and she was in her early 20s.
Patricia invited the boys back to her house. Callum was sitting in the lounge room watching TV, when she asked him to stand up. As he did so she pulled his pants down, and started to perform oral sex on him.
Callum froze, not knowing what to do – ‘I’d never had anything like that happen to me before’.
The three of them moved into her bedroom, and the sexual abuse continued. ‘I was still shitting myself. He [his cousin] wasn’t, ‘cause he was a couple of years older than me.’
Similar abuse happened on a few more occasions. ‘At the start I thought it was rotten and wrong and all that, but then in the end I started liking it. I don’t know. It was a female too, it wasn’t a male.’ It wasn’t until recently that he realised that what Patricia had done to him was actually abuse.
Some months later he went to a local pub, and there were two men there he had briefly met before. These men invited him back to a room to drink. Callum became so intoxicated that he passed out, waking to find one of the men sexually assaulting him.
Throughout this time Callum had maintained contact with his nan, and eventually moved back in with her. He did not ever tell her, or anyone else, about the abuse he had experienced.
Before the sexual assaults Callum had been a well-behaved and polite child, but his attitude declined dramatically after being abused at the hotel. He began wagging school and getting into trouble with police, and spent time in juvenile detention.
Nobody ever asked him why his behaviour had changed. His caseworker, who used to visit him at the foster home and his nan’s, was often angry at him because he kept getting into trouble. Because of this he didn’t feel he could tell her about Patricia, or the man at the hotel.
Callum continued getting into trouble as an adult, and has spent periods of time in prison. His partner has had several psychiatric admissions, and if these happen when he is in custody then their kids need to be taken into care.
This situation distressed one of his sons so much that he attempted suicide, and is now permanently in care. Callum doesn’t agree with this decision, as his partner is stable most of the time, but there is little he can do from jail.
It was a decade or so before Callum told anyone about the abuse, first disclosing to his partner. She had spoken about her own experiences of sexual abuse as a child, and this made him feel comfortable sharing what had happened to him.
‘It took her a couple of years to tell me, and when she told me I go, "Yeah, I know where you’re coming from", and then I told her.’
Callum was using drugs heavily around this time, and ended up incarcerated on a driving charge. He was sent to a drug and alcohol worker in jail. ‘She’s like, why’re you doing that? And I knew why I did it, but I just didn’t say ... Then I ended up telling her, and she got some sexual assault worker.’
This new worker saw him every week, for at least a year, and convinced Callum to make a report to police. He told the detective about the incident in the hotel, but didn’t report what Patricia had done to him and his cousin, as he didn’t think this abuse had much impact on him.
Since then he has lost contact with this police officer and does not know the outcome of the investigation. He is now reconsidering reporting the abuse by Patricia. Even though he does not feel it affected him greatly, he worries that she might have abused other children too. ‘I don’t know how many kids she’s done it to ... it affects people in different ways.’