Dietrich has no memory of his life before the age of eight. ‘I have complete amnesia of living in Melbourne. I know I lived there, I’ve seen the birth certificate – I was born there – I don’t remember going to school there, I don’t remember living there, I remember nothing about it.’
Dietrich was first sexually abused when he was nine, after his family had moved to Sydney, by an older boy in his scout troop who wanted Dietrich to ‘do things to him’. He remembered being very frightened by this, ‘so I told my parents and they I think told the scout master or whatever and next thing I know I don’t go back to that scouts, I went to other scouts’.
He was sexually abused again in his first year of high school, when he was 12 years old. This abuse involved a teacher touching his genitals two or three times, and its impact on him was enormous. ‘The one at school was very, very different and this is what worries me a lot. I actually enjoyed it.’
In his late teens Dietrich began experiencing strong feelings about this incident. He started hitchhiking, hoping people would pick him up and abuse him.
‘The thing that was very important thing for me was that each time I pretended like I’d never been through this experience. It was almost like I was acting out a role of being molested for the first time. I felt like a little boy, because it was almost like, I’m only lovable if people are doing stuff like that to me.’
Dietrich also became interested in child pornography. ‘I started finding pictures of little boys in junk mail and stuff like that, photographs in newspapers and that, I just found them attractive. Basically they were pictures of me around the age of 12.’ Over the years, the pornography he sought out became more and more graphic.
Around the same time Dietrich started tertiary study, but got heavily into drugs and dropped out. He married eventually and had children. He went back to university, graduated, and began a career.
Dietrich’s marriage broke down after 18 years, which led him to seek therapy. ‘My life didn’t make sense, I didn’t like who I was, I was anxious all the time, I was having flashbacks, I was having panic attacks.’
Therapy was the first time Dietrich had ever talked properly about the abuse. He soon discovered he was dealing with ‘a lot of stuff that goes a lot deeper than just those few incidents of molestation’. In his early 50s, he tried to commit suicide.
Dietrich came to realise that he may have also been sexually abused as a teenager by his mother, something he didn’t understand at the time. ‘You grow up as a kid, you don’t know, there’s no context to measure against, whether what you’re living in is healthy or not. I had no reference.’ He was then diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.
‘In terms of my job, in terms of many of my relationships I function very well as an adult, but I just don’t feel like one. It all feels like a con, it feels like a lie, that’s not who I am …
‘I would give anything, and I mean literally anything, to be a little boy again. I feel like I’m a little boy who finds himself in an adult body trying to be a little boy again.’
He’d regularly shave every hair off his body, to make himself look more like a boy. Soon after the disorder was diagnosed, Dietrich started having ‘bizarre flashbacks’ to something he describes as ‘ritual abuse’. He has no memory of specific facts but suspects it may have occurred at a Catholic institution near his family home. ‘I can’t help feeling that things happened in there.’
Dietrich wonders if his mother, who he describes as a ‘fanatical Catholic’, may have unknowingly sent him to be abused by the priests. In these flashbacks he sees himself receiving electric shocks and being cut by people dressed in robes. ‘There was a lot of blood involved,’ he said. The flashbacks are so strange, Dietrich has sometimes wondered if he’s going mad.
Several years ago, Dietrich was arrested for possession of child pornography. He understands why he had to be punished, but says his interest in the images was not sexual.
‘The pornography was not about doing anything to the kids, it was about … I saw myself as the victim in that. I’m trying to find myself. I didn’t even see the real boys that were being used in those images. It was about me.
‘Something of who I am was stolen and I define myself as a 12-year-old boy. I’ve always felt like I’m 12 years old. I never emotionally feel like I’ve grown beyond that point.’
Dietrich has never sought any compensation for the abuse he suffered. ‘Honestly, I don’t think I could deal with it. I would find that far too stressful, it would just tear me apart.’
He has been in counselling and therapy on and off since 2001, and signed up in prison for a sex offender program. His great hope is that he’ll find a way to get better.
‘It’s one thing to continually shame people, but if you really want to make people feel okay in society they’ve got to feel okay about themselves. Let’s face it, anyone who’s been abused the way we have, the shame is so intense, more shame doesn’t help.’