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Clayton John's story

Clayton grew up in a very religious Methodist family in Tasmania in the 1940s and 1950s. On Sundays, they went to church two or three times and John Grimes the minister would often come to his house for family lunch.

Grimes lived alone in the church vestry, and it was here that he sexually abused Clayton on a regular basis. ‘Then the guy gets up and preaches out of the Bible. And nine times out of 10, comes to our place for lunch.’ Clayton was 10 years old when it started. He was 12 when it stopped.

‘I can only imagine that this guy … somehow must have manipulated me so I went into the part of the church where he used to live.’

Clayton told no one. ‘Who’s going to believe a 10 or 11 year old?’ His cousin was abused by Grimes as well; Clayton and his cousin used to talk about it.

Clayton’s schooling went downhill once the abuse started. He just couldn’t focus. His parents sent him to an exclusive high school but it was a waste of money, he said, because the lessons just didn’t sink in.

He ended up make a pretty good living as an adult, even though he didn’t get any qualifications. He got married and had children. But the cousin who’d also been abused ‘drank himself to death’.

Grimes later abused two boys in another church and got the sack after the boys disclosed. Clayton wondered where those two boys are now. He believes that John Grimes himself may have died in jail.

Clayton told the Commissioner that he has made some terrible decisions in his life, including pleading guilty to a sexual offence that he did not commit, which led to jail time. ‘So I say, what happened in the early 50s really caused me to go off track numerous times during my lifetime.’

He also suffered from insomnia, depression and flashbacks.

In the late 1990s Clayton finally disclosed the sexual abuse to a sibling, who said to him, ‘Sit down Clayton. The same thing happened to dad at the same age’.

It made him reflect on how people just didn’t talk about things. ‘Even families didn’t talk properly.’

The media coverage of the Commission’s work forced Clayton to ask himself some hard questions. ‘When George Pell was on TV denying … that he knew anything about anything, that made my blood boil.’

After he watched Pell on television, Clayton rang the minister at the church where Grimes had abused him.

‘How do I get compensation for 65 years of my life?’ he asked him. A civil claim is now under way. The Uniting Church is also offering to make an apology, ‘either in person or in writing’.

Having the past stirred up like this has been extremely upsetting for Clayton. ‘I knew it would upset me, and brother, did it.’

His faith, hard work and the pub have helped Clayton get through his life. Counselling and talking to the Commission has also helped. Clayton would be very pleased if telling his story helps someone else come forward.

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