Des grew up in a small South Australian town in the 1960s. His neighbourhood was a poor one where alcohol abuse was widespread and there were many incidents of violence and sexual abuse. Des was sexually abused himself at age 10 or 11 while attending a camp run by the local youth centre.
At the time Des and the other boys from the centre had to share the facilities with a large group of scouts who were using the camp for their jamboree. Late one night while his friends were asleep Des saw a man guiding some of the scout boys into a room across the hall. The boys were younger than Des, about seven or eight years old. The man was offering them ‘biscuits and stuff’ to get them into the room. Des was hungry so he went along as well.
‘When the door opened up there was two blokes there, I seen a couple of kids over here, two blokes here – one had a shirt on, one had no pants on, he had an erection. Laughing and carrying on. I had no idea I was in a bad spot or anything. I think everyone in there had forced oral sex put on them.’
Des doesn’t remember what happened after that. Somehow he ended up back in his bed and the next day his dad came to pick him up.
‘Never said nothing to my dad. I was scared. I might have copped a belting, funny as that may sound … And I couldn’t say nothing to my friends about it. I would have been accused, pinpointed, picked out.’
Des kept the abuse to himself until his mid-20s when he discussed it with his doctor. He said he could discuss anything with the doctor, who was always supportive.
‘All the way through my life, every time I was there, every time I went to see him. If I had a dark week and needed a sickie certificate, I could start talking about something … I spoke to him about many things there, and I trusted the bloke and I don’t believe he ever mentioned it to my parents, because they would have gone to me straight away. And he knew that. He was a good bloke.’
The doctor passed away when Des was about 40. Around that time, Des was busy with his life and didn’t think much about the abuse.
‘I was occupied raising our family, doing our sort of stuff and looking after our kids. I had too many other things happening to be thinking about it. It’s only over the last number of years here that it’s really started bugging me again.’
A few years ago Des mentioned the abuse to a mate, but he kept himself out of the story and described what happened to the other boys as if he wasn’t there. A short while after that he told his wife, again leaving himself out of the story. Still, he suspects she figured out the truth on her own.
Des then started his own investigation, trying to pull out more information on the youth centre and the Scout jamboree. He contacted the centre and the Scouts and in both cases received a cold response and wasn’t able to get hold of much useful information. He told the Commissioner he’s never considered getting a lawyer or contacting police, he just wants to get the story straight.
Des has a busy life now, looking after his kids and grandkids. Yet he still has time to reflect, and as he gets older he said that he thinks more and more about his childhood, the abuse that he suffered and the abuse that happened all around him.
‘But nothing you could do about it’, he told the Commissioner. ‘You had to live there. There was no way out. Just had to cop it on the bloody chin.’