Cyril grew up in Melbourne in the 1950s and joined the cub scouts when he was about eight or nine years old. He told the Commissioner, ‘I have a strong recollection of being taken into the office by the scout leader and sexually molested. He had me stand beside his desk and pull my pants down and played with my genitals’.
Cyril said he vividly recalls many of the details of the scene, describing it as a ‘snapshot, a frozen moment in time’. But he has struggled to remember other bits of information, such as the man’s name and the frequency of the abuse. He suspects that there was more than one incident and that the abuse occurred over a period of several months.
He said the man never directly threatened him or told him to keep quiet. Cyril was, however, subjected to other, subtler, forces that stopped him from speaking out.
‘In cubs and scouts it’s sort of a paramilitary organisation. There is a hierarchy, there is an authority structure and you are to do as you are told and you promise to do as you are told. I’ve felt the message that I had, whether it was explicitly stated or not, was that I was not to discuss anything about this with anybody else … My perception is I did not feel threatened, I felt coerced, manipulated to do as I was told.’
Cyril was unsure whether the abuse had had any long term effect on him. He kept it to himself over the years and tried not to dwell on it.
‘I’ve never spoken to anyone about this and I’ve tried to, I suppose, minimise the thinking about it other than going into scouts as a leader myself to ensure that there’s safety for the kids.’
The night before his session with the Commissioner, Cyril told his wife about the abuse. This was the first time he’d mentioned it to anyone. He said he was always reluctant to speak out because he didn’t want his mother to know what happened to him. ‘It would be quite devastating for her’, he said.
Still, when he heard about the guarantees of confidentiality provided by the Royal Commission he decided that he could and should come forward to tell his story.
‘I’d hope as a result of that perhaps activities could be put in place to minimise the occurrence of that happening to other kids … There’s also some benefit to the individual to sort of tell someone, to get it off your chest.’