‘I live life with the thoughts of my past childhood on a weekly and sometimes daily basis which often leads me to sad thoughts, feelings of shame and disgust, embarrassment and anger – I get angry at myself for not having done something much earlier in my life.’
In the late 1960s, when he was one, Davey and his three siblings were placed in the care of an Anglican home in a small Victorian town. His mother had deserted the family and Davey has never seen her again. His father was a violent alcoholic, unable to care for his children.
Davey has blanked out most of his childhood, he told the Commissioner. But he had detailed recall of his first experience of sexual abuse.
He was eight years old. It was early evening and he was alone upstairs in the dormitory where he and many other children slept. Alan, one of the carers at the home, came in and sat down on Davey’s bed. He asked Davey to sit on his lap. Then he asked if he could see Davey’s ‘firehose’. He put his hand down Davey’s pants, then he took Davey’s hand and put it down his pants.
The abuse continued for several years, in different places around the home – in the shed, under the stairs, in a courtyard, in a toilet, in a basement room. It escalated over time, with Alan forcing Davey to perform oral sex on him.
‘There were times when I objected’, Davey said, ‘and for this I would be locked under the stairs or physically abused and warned told not to tell anyone’.
Davey did try to tell someone - another of the carers, a woman he remembers as one of the few adults at the home who were kind. She would take him to her house occasionally, and he’d play with her dogs.
When he was about 10 he told her what Alan had been doing. She didn’t believe him. He doesn’t remember whether he was explicit or not. ‘As a child you don’t think of words like sexual abuse. But I certainly said something is not right, something is happening here.’ She told him he was lying, and locked him in a room under the stairs to punish him.
Davey didn’t speak of the abuse to anyone at the home again.
When he was 13 his father remarried and Davey and one of his siblings were returned to his care. His father was still an alcoholic and still violent. At 15, Davey joined the cadets. ‘This was to be my escape time away from an abusive house, and a time I looked forward to’, he said.
Cadets involved a busy schedule, with meetings, parades and camps. As it was some distance away, getting there and home again was difficult. Davey didn’t want his father to drive him, as inevitably he’d be drunk. He could get the bus one way but coming home it was too late. He got lifts from other families when he could and would sometimes get a ride from one of the officers, Sub-Lieutenant Wilson.
One night Wilson pulled the car over and sexually assaulted Davey. He grabbed Davey’s crotch, then played with his penis while at the same time masturbating himself. ‘I remember just freezing up and doing nothing’, Davey said.
‘I also remember going inside the house and seeing his semen stains on my black pants and feeling dirty and ashamed, and trying to scrub it off my pants.’
Several years of abuse followed. Again, it escalated. When Davey was 17 he was anally raped by Wilson.
Wilson told Davey not to tell anyone and that he’d be expelled from cadets if he did. ‘This was a particularly difficult time for me’, Davey said. His home life was abusive as well. ‘I remember at the time thinking if I just put up with [Wilson’ assaults] then eventually I’ll join the navy and become a chef and escape the house.’
When Davey turned 18 he got his driver’s licence, packed up and left. He went to Melbourne, arriving unprepared for the world but free of physical and sexual abuse. He lived there for the next 20 years. Sex and drugs loomed large in his life, as he tried to forget what had been done to him. And while he is a now productive member of society, he said – working, paying taxes, never in trouble with the law – that doesn’t reflect his inner life.
His experiences of abuse have left him with feelings of shame and disgust, embarrassment and anger, he told the Commissioner. He can’t sustain meaningful relationships with friends and can’t commit to a close relationship with a partner.
Davey approached the police at the same time as he contacted the Royal Commission, but feels they have treated him with a lack of interest and respect. Appointments have been cancelled and rescheduled and after many months he is yet to give a full statement.
‘I didn’t expect someone to feel sorry for me but I did expect they’d be more sympathetic’, he said.
He believed that speaking to the Commission was more useful.
‘I feel that the most people who come forward and speak now, it’s something that’s going to help the kids of the future. We can’t help ourselves now – what’s happened has happened, you know. You can’t fix that. We can only try and help kids of the future.’