Donny Michael's story

‘I’m tired of feeling I have to hide from this. I’m not going to feel shame no more.’

Donny was the youngest child in a strict religious family, and was sexually abused at home when he was small. ‘I always remember somebody at my bed ... I used to wake up screaming ... That used to happen quite regular ... My brothers as they reached puberty and they wanted me to do stuff with them.’ The only time his father ever said he loved him was when he was beating him.

As a young teen in the 1980s, Donny joined his local Sydney surf lifesaving club, where he enjoyed some reprieve from his home life. One of the coaches at the club, Neville, was well-known amongst the boys for watching them while they got changed, and Donny believes the people in authority at the club must have been aware of this.

When Donny was 14, Neville invited him and some other boys to his house one weekend, providing them with alcohol, marijuana, and a pill which he said would give them ‘great sex’. After partaking of everything on offer, Donny passed out and woke up to find Neville raping him.

Donny ran home and reported what had happened to his parents. They were not very sympathetic and did not offer any support. ‘There was no help in the 80s, just people who label you.’

They told him that if he spoke about the abuse ‘I’d be labelled as a faggot and my life would be ruined, and I’d destroy my parents’ name ... Basically I was made to feel it was my fault’.

Donny’s faith led him to think that ‘when this happened to me I was no good to God, because I’d been defiled. That’s what I believed’. Extremely distressed, he tried to suicide by jumping from the window but was restrained by his father. He was angry at his parents for stopping him from dying – ‘how dare you make me live with this’.

Not long after this, Donny tried to tell police ‘but they didn’t want to know either. You were made to feel like, oh, I shouldn’t have been there either’. For a long time he did think the rape was somehow his fault: ‘I chose to go there, I chose to drink, I chose to have a joint’.

Donny left home as soon as he could, travelling around to find work, and misusing drugs and alcohol. As an adult, he again reported the abuse to police, who said they had identified Neville, and that he was now deceased.

Donny has also written to the surf club in an attempt to make contact with other boys who were there at the same time as him, but has received no reply. As yet, he has not made any application for compensation from the club.

Donny is currently engaged with a counsellor, and this has helped him realise the abuse was not his fault. He has just started a course at a support organisation for men who have experienced sexual abuse and is now comfortable letting other people know about what happened to him. ‘Why should I care what they think? Because I’m not ashamed anymore.’

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