Clinton Gregory's story

‘What’s a little black kid going to be against a revered person in the community, same standing as the mayor and the police officer and all this sort of stuff? That was my grown-up thinking, but at the time I just froze and just shut my mouth.’

Clinton was born in the mid-1960s and raised in regional Western Australia. As a child he would often travel to the city during holidays to visit relatives. He spent a lot of time staying with his grandparents in suburban Perth.

A couple of his young uncles who lived there were involved in a local Anglican youth group, and he would sometimes join them for activities. The group was run by Reverend Taylor, who groomed him and his family and sometimes visited their home.

Taylor would arrange ‘trips to the beach where he would drive us kids to there and sleeping over at his house’. When Clinton was six years old Taylor took him and another 11-year-old relative on one such outing. While Clinton was in the water, Taylor grabbed his backside a couple of times, and held him close to his body.

Clinton needed to use the toilet and Taylor accompanied him. ‘He grabbed my penis and made me grab his, my hand on his thing.’ Clinton froze, and the minister immediately told him not to tell anybody what had happened. ‘I was crapping myself, and I’m thinking I’m going to get into trouble.’

Taylor and the boys stayed at his house that night. He came into Clinton’s room as he slept and put his hand under the bedclothes. ‘And he grabbed me on the penis and he was sort of stroking me and all that, and he grabbed my hand and made me grab him on the penis.’ Clinton was crying but tried not to make a noise.

The minister threatened Clinton, telling him. ‘The Devil will get you, you will go to Hell, you are a naughty boy for the things you are doing, so don't tell anyone’. And so he was too scared to disclose the abuse. ‘Those things made me very, very frightened, as I was young at the time, and they were effective in silencing me until very recently.’

He was afraid of being punished for disclosing, too, thinking he would not be believed. ‘Cause I was so young, I thought if I said anything my dad would just flog me with those big hands that he had, and so I didn’t say nothing.’

Very soon after this incident Clinton started wetting the bed, continuing to do so for several years. Nobody ever asked him if anything was wrong and instead he would get into trouble. ‘I was almost like frightened. I used to go to bed with the covers over me. I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I purposely wet my bed almost. So that was a horrible experience.’ Kids at school knew of his bedwetting and bullied him about it.

The reverend fondled him on several other occasions, and continued to visit the family even after the abuse had stopped. Clinton ran away and hid when this occurred. Sometimes Taylor invited him to join him and some other boys on a particular activity, but he made excuses to extricate himself from the situation.

Clinton attempted to be extra well behaved as a way of coping with the bad things he felt, and strongly focussed on his studies. ‘I was trying to be perfect. I’d clean the house. I’d clean our room. I’d clean the yard at young ages. I’d iron my own clothes ... I was trying to compensate for this horrible feeling I had inside me. I kept going, “I’ve done something wrong, so I need to fix it up”.’ Even now he sets himself very high standards and struggles to accept any praise.

Although very talented at sports, Clinton deliberately avoided participating at a high level as he didn’t ‘want my name in the papers, to be this star ... ‘cause Taylor might read that I’m someone special and he might say, “Oh, I’ve had that boy”.’

Clinton did not disclose at the time, however he recalls an incident some years later when his grandmother confronted Taylor at the front steps of her house. Taylor never returned to the family home after that incident, and Clinton believes that his nanna had somehow found out Taylor was sexually abusing him or other boys in the family.

Taylor suicided in the 1990s while facing numerous charges of child sexual abuse. ‘When that happened, it was talked about amongst my relatives, and one of them said something like, “Glad that perverted bastard has gone”, and I said something like, “Good riddance”, but I didn't say anymore, as I did not want anyone to think that he had done anything to me. But I suspect he had also done things to some of my relatives, based on what was said about him when he died.’

Over the years Clinton has carried a lot of shame over the sexual abuse, and has struggled with love and intimacy, as well as experiencing significant difficulties sleeping. He abused alcohol for decades, and was over-protective of his children. ‘I feel distant from myself, from my achievements and from intimacy in my relationships, and I feel like I have failed in my relationships ... I am angry with others – not violent, but I snap verbally – and I have, all my adult life.’

Carrying a great deal of anger at the Church, he rejected religion altogether. ‘I’ve sort of pushed myself away from involving myself with the Church in many ways, and I was being dirty and angry with religion from a young age I suppose.’

Clinton recently disclosed the abuse to his mother, siblings and children, and has engaged solicitors to assist him with making a compensation claim. He has received counselling through the Anglican Church’s Professional Standards Committee. This has helped him significantly, even if ‘rehashing, regurgitating, reminding myself of what happened just hasn’t been a nice journey’.

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