Clive Adam's story

Clive tried to speak up about the sexual abuse he was experiencing at the children’s homes he was sent to. As he recalls in his written statement, ‘I was punished for speaking up. As a result, I can summarise the institutional responses on one word – punishment’.

On one occasion he told a priest. On another he told a social worker at the home. The social worker took notes but Clive later discovered there was no mention of the abuse in his files.

Increasingly, Clive became angry, even though he said being violent is not his normal make-up. ‘I remember when I was 18 and 19, I used to just go from pub to pub just smashing anything and anybody that got in my way … not the best thing … but I had to deal with my anger.

'It was just so overwhelming, especially when I was at [the children’s home] and I tried to tell people that these things were happening … All I copped was a slap in the face because I’ve been disrespectful; and I was called a liar and punished.’

Clive grew up in Victoria in the 1960s, the eldest in a large family. His stepfather was violent and would bash all the members of the family. Clive’s mother became ill and, from the time he was nine, Clive helped out with the care of his younger siblings – cooking for them, dressing them and taking them to school.

His stepfather, who was committing scams and fraud, was arrested and imprisoned. When Clive was 12, he and his siblings were placed in the care of the state. Clive was first taken to a government-run reception centre.

‘The night I arrived, I saw a boy being punched in the face by one of the officers. He was taken to solitary confinement … This was a terrifying start to my stay.’

Clive was at the centre for only five weeks but, in that period, he was sexually abused several times by one of the officers. The officer would pretend Clive was a bedwetter and make him get up in the night to go to the toilet. It was in the toilets that the abuse would occur, either alone or with other boys.

‘I would freeze. I didn’t feel able to do anything. I did what he told me to do. I was scared not to do what he wanted, so when he told me to masturbate in front of the older boys, I would just do what he wanted.’

These older boys would also abuse Clive. They would ‘pounce on anyone when going to the toilet’.

Clive was then sent to an Anglican-run children’s home. There he was subjected to further sexual abuse by Father Peter Allsop, now deceased, and another man, Birte Mortensen, who has since been imprisoned for child sexual assaults.

‘Even though the [family] situation that I’d come from was in some ways – was a bit abnormal, I was more protected in that situation before, than what I was when I went to the reception centre and children’s home … I could never understand why these things were happening to me.’

As Clive wrote in his statement, ‘I lost the right to protect my siblings. I have had to live with knowing that the abuse perpetrated on me also happened to some of my brothers and sisters’.

At 15, Clive was sent to a boarding house and removed from school, where he had been doing well. He worked casual jobs, ‘got involved with the wrong people’ and started his ‘criminal apprenticeship’.

‘You learn to hate like you wouldn’t believe, and I did spend a bit of time on the booze and on the drugs … My wife managed to turn me around on that crap.’ When Clive met his wife of 40 years while still a teenager, things started to improve. After working various jobs, he trained and had a career.

He and his wife have children and grandchildren, all a great source of joy and resilience. Apart from one sister, Clive isn’t close to his siblings – a loss he attributes to their childhood abuse.

Anger, guilt, nightmares, shame, mistrust, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder are all impacts Clive has experienced. His children know why he has his moods but they don’t know all the ‘nitty gritty’. Clive was determined that his children, who are now adults, wouldn’t suffer just because his life was stuffed up. He has a good relationship with them and is proud of their achievements.

But in recent years Clive has suffered more severe mental health problems. ‘Idiot me, I just kept pushing it in the back of my head. "Nothing’s happening. Nothing’s happening. I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m alright".’ He was hospitalised a couple of times. On his wife’s insistence, he saw a doctor and went on medication. That helped him to cope and realise he needed help, which he now has.

Clive is more interested in justice than compensation. Recently he reported Birte Mortensen to the police. If he ever did receive compensation, he would donate a lot of it to the Bravehearts foundation's mission against child sexual assault: ‘They were good to me.’ Otherwise, it would be for his kids.

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