Damon entered his third year of high school in the mid-1970s. He said it was a very different world back then:
‘No one even knew about the word “paedophile” ... Amazingly naive at the time, hence a lot of people found themselves in situations that they felt couldn’t possibly happen to them.’
Damon and some friends decided to sign up for the Army cadet program at a nearby college. The program was run by a man in his forties named Mr Larkin.
‘Practically the first thing we heard about when we got there was we had to be wary of Mr Larkin. This was amongst the group of boys. It was very common knowledge that Mr Larkin was a predator.’
Over the next few weeks, Damon heard more stories about Larkin. He also witnessed him touching boys and, during one camp, showering out in the open while ‘rubbing himself, his genitals, in front of everyone’.
Around this time, Damon was also attending night classes that Mr Larkin happened to be running. The classes were supposed to be for adults, but Damon needed the credit in order to qualify for his apprenticeship, so he asked Larkin if he could attend and Larkin agreed.
Four or five weeks into the term, Larkin told Damon to stay behind after class, ‘so he could measure me up for a uniform. At this stage I already had all my cadet uniforms but he said he needed to measure me up for one’.
Larkin got Damon to strip to his underwear and stand on a high stool. He then touched Damon around the thighs and genitals and pulled his underwear out so he could look underneath.
‘His actions and demeanour at the time suggested that he was aroused. And I suppose how you could tell that was that his hands were shaking, breathing heavy, it was altogether a bit uncomfortable. I obviously knew that I was going to be in trouble so I, as forcefully as I could, told him that I needed to get home. He resisted at first then allowed me to get dressed. Before I left he mentioned that further measuring would be required.’
Damon got home as quickly as he could and immediately told his parents that Larkin had made him undress.
‘But when they asked if he had touched me I said no. I was obviously too ashamed to admit the details … At the time, the whole thing being such an off-limits taboo subject, I just couldn’t. Far too ashamed, far too embarrassed, mortified. I just couldn’t tell anyone, not even my parents.’
Damon’s parents took him out of the cadets immediately but said that he had to stick with the tech classes so that he could qualify for his apprenticeship. Meanwhile, Damon’s mother complained to the principal. He promised to look into the matter but never called her back. As far as Damon knows, Larkin wasn’t sanctioned and the police were never notified.
At the next tech class Mr Larkin told Damon that he wasn’t allowed to continue the course unless he rejoined cadets. ‘It was obvious then that the tech classes were all part of the plan.’
Damon quit the classes. As a result he wasn’t able to get the apprenticeship he wanted.
Over the years, Damon has struggled with panic attacks that strike when he finds himself alone with other men. Sometimes he runs certain memories over in his head and berates himself for the way he behaved.
‘“Why did you go in the room when you knew that he was like that?” And that’s probably the one question that annoys me the most. Annoys me for myself. I knew what he was like, I’d seen what I’d seen and I still agreed. It was like I knew what was coming and I just let it happen.’
Damon has never pursued legal action against Larkin or the school. He is unsure about whether it would be right for him.
‘What I don’t want to do is to suddenly become a super zealot for this and have it take over my life with a criminal prosecution and perhaps compensation. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a very successful life. No, I didn’t get that apprenticeship but I became successful in other things and I’ve got a very normal family life … I’m very happy that I’ve been able to come here today to at least talk about it, to hopefully make the Commission more successful in its outcomes.’