Derrick Robert's story

‘What I saw was beyond comprehension. It was so evil it was beyond comprehension.’

As a boy in Melbourne in the 1960s Derrick was frightened of his father, who was psychologically and physically abusive. Derrick believes his mother sought attention by claiming her son had various mental illnesses and Derrick remembers always being introduced as ‘retarded and mentally backward’.

When he was 12, his parents took him for a drive ‘to visit some family friends’. Instead they left Derrick at a mental health institution where he was to live for three years, enduring nearly constant sexual and physical abuse.

‘Whatever trust I had for my parents of course vaporised’, Derrick told the Commissioner. ‘Then I realised I was by myself.’

An attendant at the facility, Alvin Marks, abused the child residents without restraint. ‘I was immediately given this cocktail of drugs. I was weak. Alvin Marks was a predator and would rape me and other children several times a week. He would take children at night … sometimes with his boyfriends and others, and rape children.’

Derrick tried to resist Marks but was threatened. ‘He said, “If you don’t do it, and if you tell anybody, I will kill you”.’

There was a culture of violence towards the children throughout the institution and Marks’ activities were common knowledge.

‘He was raping this kid in front of other staff. Nobody did anything. The other staff I could hear openly speak about his paedophilic activity … No one did anything. Absolutely zero. I was terrified and I thought, “Well, I can’t tell anyone about it”.’

In desperation Derrick escaped the dormitory one day and made his way to plead with his father in his city office.

‘I said, “Dad I’m being abused, I’m being raped, I’m being assaulted, I’ve been bashed, I’ve been drugged. Please take me out”.

‘He laughed in my face and said, “Please wait outside, son”.’

The medical officer from the mental health facility turned up a short while later and twisted Derrick’s arm behind his back. He forced him into a car and took him back to the institution. After that Derrick believes he was targeted for extra bashings and sexual assault.

‘Everybody knew what was happening and did nothing about it. This was pure evil. You cannot explain it. It’s not human.’

Derrick was allowed to return home when he was 15. Trying to put the abuse behind him, Derrick completed school and did very well. He attended university and started a business. Eventually he married. It was the birth of his children which Derrick believes brought the trauma back into his mind, as he thought about the need to protect them.

‘I just fell apart.’ He became erratic and emotional. His business and his marriage broke down and Derrick has had a lifelong struggle to cope.

‘It’s cost me endless trauma that I’ve tried to get over. The best I can do is manage it in some form.

‘Every single wife and girlfriend I’ve had I’d be waking up in a cold sweat and wondering what the hell was happening. And I’d have to explain. It’s cost me three marriages … It’s cost me lost opportunities, it’s cost me businesses.’

Derrick has looked for both acknowledgement and compensation for what he suffered as a child. He has found that process re-traumatising also.

Derrick hired legal counsel and approached the Victorian Government with a civil suit. He attended a mediation hearing. ‘The three government lawyers said, “If you pursue this and take it to court we will bankrupt you and take your house” … The government wanted to steal my home … a trauma victim, these absolute pieces of shit. How dare they say that to a man who’s been traumatised.’

Frightened of losing his main asset, Derrick withdrew his court action.

He has been told that Alvin Marks has now died. In recent years he reported the abuse to police more than once, but no action has been taken that he is aware of.

Derrick is keen to see compensation for all victims of sexual and physical abuse while in the care of government institutions. ‘I want specific action because I feel that the authorities have re-abused the victims by not allowing direct compensation when something’s been proved, by allowing it to drag through courts.

‘If the government can waste numerous billions on absolute garbage it can compensate the most vulnerable human beings.’

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