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Clayton Eric's story

‘My mother was a warm, caring, devoted Christian lady … We were a poor family … so not having a car, my mother trusted leaders of the church to take us to and from church, altar boy practice, Sunday school, communion orientation and also [the Church of England Boys’ Society].’

Clayton ‘was about eight or nine when this started to happen … I was naive. This Mr Garland and his offsider, to me, held positions of power, influence and found it easy to groom me … I have calculated that I was sexually abused over 1,000 times in six to seven years … I was fondled, masturbated, given oral sex, digitally and [anally] raped and taught to do the same’.

Mr Garland and his offsider were local Anglican leaders in regional Queensland, and they ‘had keys to the church, ran everything, collected the money at services and were involved in church meetings and Sunday school, and all the functions and running the Church of England Boys’ Society’.

The abuse by the two men usually took place in the church hall, the toilets and the car park. One night in the early 1960s, Garland’s offsider took Clayton to a film night at a boys’ home. On the way back, ‘he sodomised me … He told me that if … anyone ever found out, I would end up in [the home] … and [the boys] all had sex with each other every night, so it was alright what we were doing’.

When Clayton was about 14 or 15, he and his brother had an argument one day and this led to his brother telling their mother what Garland had been doing. Clayton only told his mother that Garland had been masturbating him and making him do the same.

After hearing of the abuse, Clayton’s mother cried and said that they couldn’t tell his father because ‘he would either throw me out of the house or he would kill both of us. He was very clear on what his thoughts [were] of homosexuals’.

Clayton’s mother told him not to go to the church anymore. However, Garland would wait for him after school and the abuse continued. Clayton was ashamed, and told his mother that he was playing sport.

Eventually Clayton told his mother about the continuing abuse, and the two of them went to see the reverend at the church. The reverend told them that they ‘couldn’t tell anyone, that he would handle it [because] the Church didn’t need a scandal’ and that it might be best if Clayton was sent to a navy recruit school in Western Australia to get away from what had happened.

‘The adventure of a career soon turned to hell. [The school] was like a concentration camp. From day one, abuse, bastardisation, standing over and bashings.’ When Clayton was called to the padre’s office he discovered that the reverend from his church had contacted the padre and told him why Clayton had been sent to the recruit school.

‘It wasn’t long before word got out about me and … besides the bastardisation and abuse, I was targeted for sexual abuse. At first it was oral sex in the showers, then blanketing … then … toothbrushes rammed up my bum, and sodomy … I lived in fear and shame.’

When Clayton reported the abuse to his Chief Petty Officer, ‘he told me to “Be a man. Fight back” and that I was in the navy and things like that didn’t happen … and “boys will be boys”.’

Eventually, the two main offenders were dishonourably discharged, under the pretext that they’d been caught stealing. ‘How bad has it got to be for a 16-year-old to be given a dishonourable discharge?’

The sexual abuse has had a huge impact on Clayton’s adult life.

‘I have always put my family and friends first, but despite being married twice and engaged once, I have walked away from these relationships shattered, feeling that I am a failure, that I have been used, that I have had confused sexual feelings, that I have carried the shame and guilt all my life of what happened to me.’

‘I felt dirty, and responsible for what happened to me as a child. I have isolated myself … hidden my true feelings. The loneliness I have experienced is overwhelming, because of this shame, as if I have lived a lie and … to end up in jail for sexually offending … disgusts me.’

In a submission Clayton wrote, ‘I accept responsibility for my offending. I have now become an abuser. I am trying to find and understand myself, in an aim, for the first time in my life, to be able to live in peace with myself and the hurt and pain that I have now caused’.

Clayton has approached both the Anglican Church and the Department of Defence for acknowledgement of the sexual abuse. He’s received acknowledgement and apologies from both, but the Department of Veterans’ Affairs recently rejected his claim, saying there was no evidence of sexual abuse. His records from 45 years ago cannot be found.

After his approach to Church officials, Clayton refused the very small amount they offered as compensation ‘for damages and suffering’.

When his psychologist urged him to go back to the church where the abuse occurred ‘to confront my demons … and try to find closure’, Clayton discovered that ‘[Garland] was still at [the] church 30 years later, doing the same thing … This makes me very angry. Deceived, used and abused and then thrown away to protect the Church. My life meant nothing. I was just a kid’.

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