‘There is a dumping truck of fear, failure, torment, memories and agony of what happened that results in me thinking who cares? Who wants to help? Nobody.’
Dominik was born into a traditional Brethren family in regional Victoria in the mid-1960s. His father was a shift worker and his mother was mentally unwell, so the children were often looked after by other families from the church.
After starting counselling in his late 30s, Dominik recovered memories of being ritualistically sexually abused from the age of three by several church leaders and other men.
‘I was getting memories of being in a dark room, with many people being inside. I was either laying down on a table or laying down. There was no windows I could see, it was very dimly lit.’
He described the abuse as ‘satanic’ because it involved torture, wrist cutting and sodomy. He was often subdued with drugs and recalls ‘needles being used’. Other children were also abused, and he was never alone in the dark room. Dominik said that the abusers threatened him not to tell anyone.
On other occasions, when Dominik and his siblings were taken on camps and other trips by the church, he and his sister were both abused by a leader. Dominik couldn’t recall any of the perpetrators’ names for several decades.
When he was five, he had told his parents about the abuse. Their response at the time was, ‘Don’t be silly, that can’t happen’. He said it was then that he ‘shut down’ and didn’t talk about it again for 30 years.
‘When you first begin to hear about the abuse, because you weren’t believed back there you sometimes doubt it here. You think you’re making it up. It must be all my imagination.’
It’s difficult for Dominik to remember why the abuse stopped in the early 70s, but he believes that his family moved away from the town. He struggled at school and recalls asking his parents to fill out forms so he wouldn’t have to attend.
Throughout his teenage years and adulthood, Dominik has had trouble trusting people, especially men. He doesn’t like being touched and gets anxious in public restrooms. He also has an intense fear of needles and is often on edge because of the fear of being raped again. He has self-harmed and ‘lost count’ of his suicide attempts.
In the early 2000s, Dominik was able to establish a great relationship with a counsellor who was a survivor from the same church. He learnt the names of the men who abused him and, through that, ‘unlocked’ more memories.
He’s since been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple personality disorder, but said counselling has validated his story and he’s in a ‘good place’.
Dominik has never reported the abuse to police. He said it would be ‘too painful and harrowing’, and the thought of seeing his abusers again is extremely upsetting. When he wrote to the Brethren in the mid-2000s, he was told he’d have to report the abuse to the church where it took place, which was the ‘last thing’ he wanted to do.
Since contacting the Royal Commission, Dominik has learnt that another victim has made a statement to police. He has also approached the Brethren Church again and is waiting for a response.
Dominik believes judges need to be better educated about sexual abuse and lenient sentences for perpetrators must stop, because the impact on survivors is ‘lifelong’.