Claude Henry's story

Claude was placed in a government-run Sydney boys’ home in the 1960s when he was nine years old, with his sisters being taken into care elsewhere. Two officers frequently sexually abused Claude at night ‘from pretty much the first day I arrived’ at the home.

‘I would be in bed asleep then I would feel an adult initially touching me on my head then they would start touching my penis to masturbate me. I was then forced to masturbate them. I just cried when they did this and did not say any words. They just told me to behave myself and if I told anyone I would be in big trouble. Sometimes it would happen on consecutive nights ...

‘After a few days of masturbation one of the officers started to touch my anus. He tried to rape me. I started to squeal and he moved away. He threatened that he would tell the main officer that I was walking around at night and I would get the cane.

‘After about four times of the officer trying to rape me I got too scared of his verbal threats and stopped squealing. He then started to rape me regularly. He twisted my arm and grabbed me around the neck and told me to shut up. He was a huge man and he frightened the hell out of me.’

These assaults happened ‘once or twice a week’. ‘There was a mess in my bed after he had been there. I then got into trouble the next morning for wetting my bed and got detention. I was categorised as a bed wetter.’

The officers who abused him would watch him closely in the shower, and ‘make hand gestures at me about what they were going to do to me so no one else could see’.

These men also ‘used to sexually assault other boys during the night. I could see them at other boys’ beds during the night’. The boys did not speak about this abuse amongst themselves.

Claude was also sexually abused by older boys, who raped him and forced him to masturbate them. ‘They all punched me to make sure I did not tell any of the staff ... I would see other kids with bruises from these same older boys.’

He reported this abuse by the older boys to staff members he thought he could trust. ‘The officers who I thought might help me told me to go away and stop making up stories.’

At 12 years of age Claude was moved to a state training farm. ‘On my first night ... older kids sexually assaulted me. I was woken up by a one of the older boys, who was a stranger to me. That boy told me to go down to the toilets, that someone was sick in there.’

When he got to the toilet block two teenage boys held him down and ‘each of them raped me’. ‘After they finished raping me I ran back to bed. Next morning I was forced to clean up my bed because of the mess ... The officer the next morning treated me as if I had wet the bed.’

Claude did not disclose the abuse as he was scared of repercussions. After being abused by these boys for six months ‘they started assaulting other younger boys and left me alone’.

This reprieve from abuse was temporary however, as another boy soon began raping him, continuing to do so frequently for the next two years. There were other boys from outside the home that raped him when he would go out on weekends too. ‘Those boys also threatened me and I cried when they raped me.’

When Claude was in his mid-teens he and some of the other boys were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, and he was questioned about this. He reported the abuse at this stage but nothing was done about it.

Not having received any real education in care Claude can barely read or write, and for years could only find employment doing manual labour. He has not ever spoken to police about any of the abuse or sought compensation.

As he gets older he remembers more about the abuse, finding certain smells and songs triggering. His partner is a great source of support. He recognises that he has a ‘short fuse’ and is ‘always cranky’, and gets angry over ‘silly things’.

Although he thinks he’d probably benefit from seeking professional help ‘I haven’t done nothing about it’, though he has recently become engaged with a support group for care leavers. It was not until then that he actually disclosed the abuse to anyone in detail as an adult. Before this, ‘I just sort of shrugged it off because nothing had ever happened about it’.

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