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Darrell Cole's story

‘If you take out what he got up to out of the equation, he was just what I needed as far as a father figure who gave me the appropriate amount of attention; was interested in me. When you look at it from an adult’s perspective, it was completely predatory.’

Darrell decided to join the local sea scout group in New South Wales in the mid-1970s, as he wanted to ‘get out of the house’. He was 11 at the time, and his family was ‘falling apart’. When his father left he felt expected to care for his younger siblings.

The scout group was a great way to meet new friends and learn ‘really cool skills’. At the group meetings Darrell progressed through the introductory stages and came under the guidance of scout leader, George Perry.

Perry was charismatic, slightly younger than the other leaders, and paid close attention to him. He often asked Darrell to demonstrate tasks and praised his good work in meetings. Darrell thought Perry was ‘a really great guy’ and became close to him.

It didn’t take long for Perry to start sexually abusing Darrell. He would take Darrell to a separate room in the hall, expose himself, and encourage him in mutual masturbation sessions. Darrell is unsure how many times the abuse occurred.

‘You follow the leader who has the most influence over you at the time. At that particular point it was that scout leader. He didn’t threaten me, necessarily, because he was comfortable that I wasn’t going to talk and I just didn’t know what to do.’

Perry told Darrell ‘this is something we don’t talk about’ so he couldn’t tell anyone what was happening. His parents eventually divorced and he moved away, and after this he no longer saw Perry.

Darrell progressed through high school and into his adult life not realising how much the abuse had affected him. He remembers the only noticeable change in his behaviour was his attitude towards his mother. They had a very strained relationship and Darrell resented her for not protecting him. In his late 20s, he realised that what had happened wasn’t her fault. They have since repaired their relationship.

Darrell has had persistent depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of shame and guilt since the abuse. He knows the assaults were not his fault, but still finds it ‘hard to reconcile’ and believe this. He has also found it difficult to trust people, and this is an ongoing issue for him. Although he wants to forgive Perry for his actions he is unsure how to do this.

When Darrell was in his late 40s he had a heart attack. He felt it was caused by the stress of dealing with his abuse. After this he sought counselling to help him come to terms with the impacts of the abuse.

‘I had the very good fortune to survive a heart attack … I hope in all good conscience, with the very fibre in my being, that I’m here to have had that experience to be able to wipe that stain from my heart. It has travelled with me for so long and I’m over it. I will do whatever it is in my power to expose this from my being. I’m done.’

It wasn’t until 10 years ago that Darrell decided to tell his wife and mother about Perry’s abuse. He did not disclose the details, but felt a huge relief when he told them. He now knows his mother suspected something was amiss when the abuse occurred.

Darrell married and had a family. He adores his children and wants to prepare them for life and ‘not cocoon them’. However, he is also over-protective and their safety is his priority. His employment has flexible work conditions, and he loves being able to spend time with his children and still work in a role he ‘enjoys and is good at’.

Darrell is currently considering seeking advice regarding compensation. He said that he felt that the money is not important, but living well is the best outcome of his experiences.

‘I’ve been driven in my adult years, especially since my marriage to [my wife], that the best revenge is to live well. He doesn’t define me, his experiences with me don’t define me. The reason I’m here is because it’s become very apparent that what I thought I’d dealt with in my earlier adult life, talking in front of a clinical psychologist for many a session, hasn’t been dealt with. This is about me and me healing … my focus is on being a whole person, a better partner and a great father.’

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