‘The things that hurt me, that’s what I remember.’
One of Dex’s earliest memories is of running around his parents’ car in an attempt to avoid being sent inside a children’s home. It was the late 1960s and seven-year-old Dex had been taken to the Catholic home in regional Victoria because his parents couldn’t cope.
Several days after he arrived at the home, Dex was woken by a man in black robes and a white collar. The man told him to go with him and that he had lollies and chocolates. Dex followed the man out of the dormitory and down the corridor.
After being taken into a small dimly room, the man told Dex to sit on the bed and then began rubbing his pants. Then the man took off his robe, dropped his pants and forced Dex to touch his genitals. He then man removed Dex’s pajamas and raped him.
‘It hurt and hurt … He just kept going and going … I’ve never felt that [pain] before in my life.’
Dex was sexually abused five more times by the man, always at night in the same small room. He didn’t say anything to anyone about what happened.
One night, Dex heard the familiar footsteps coming and pulled his bed sheets over himself. When the man came to his bed, he pleaded to be left alone and the man retreated and went to the next boy’s bed.
Dex was relieved the man didn’t come near him again, but felt guilty whenever he heard his footsteps at night as he knew that another boy was being abused. He often saw the man during the day, playing with children during lunch. He never found out his name, but believes he was a priest who lived on the grounds.
In the early 1970s when he was eight, Dex was moved to another Catholic home. When he was 15, he was placed in a Salvation Army boys’ home in a different town. He recalls being physically abused once by a Salvation Army officer.
‘They had this thick belt, doubled up. It was pretty wide. He pulled my pants down and whacked me, I had big imprints across me cheeks and me back … Geez that one really hurt.’
He was discharged from care when he was 16 and spent a few years living on the streets and stealing from people and shops. He was then sent to a youth hospital in a different town, where he stayed until he was 18. There, he was physically abused many times by different workers.
In the early 1980s, 18-year-old Dex was released from the youth hospital and got a job, the first of many. He got married in his mid-20s, and he and his wife had several children.
Throughout his adulthood, he blocked memories of the abuse and didn’t talk about it. He tends to withdraw from difficult situations and has been diagnosed with anxiety. He doesn’t like to open up to people and has few friends, explaining ‘I just didn’t want to be with people’.
At the time of his private session, Dex had been following news about the Royal Commission’s work for several years. The media coverage had caused memories of being in the homes to come flooding back. One day his wife found him crying in their backyard and he disclosed the details of the abuse to her.
He then told his parents, which he found very hard because he blamed his mother for putting him in the home in the first place. The two years before his private session had been difficult, as he tried to forgive his mother at the same time as acknowledging that the abuse had occurred.
He attempted to take his life shortly after his disclosure and was hospitalised for treatment. He has been a patient with a local mental health service for over two years which he said has been helpful. He recently engaged lawyers to explore the possibility of a compensation claim, but has not reported the abuse to the police.