Edward Lee's story

‘I was such a feared, scared boy … When I first went into these homes I didn’t know about how to eat meals, I didn’t know anything about steaks … and [how to] sit down and have potatoes and vegetables … I knew nothing of it because we were too poor, because Dad spent all the money at the pub drinking.’

Edward’s home life was troubled and dysfunctional. His father was a chronic alcoholic and abusive and Edward often ran away from home because he was frightened. On one occasion, he was caught by the authorities and placed in a government-run boys’ home in Brisbane for over two years. In the late 1970s, when he was about 13 years old, Edward returned to his family as his father had given up alcohol and ‘he sort of asked for forgiveness’.

But while Edward’s home life seemed stable he couldn’t settle back into the family.

‘It worked out good and I got to stay home and then what I done was I misbehaved and broke the law … and I got caught and I had to go to court.’

Edward received a probationary sentence and he was made a ward of the state. He was assigned a social worker. The social worker was a young man who appeared friendly and supportive but had significant power over Edward’s life.

‘I had to see him every week without fail and if I didn’t show up he could breach me or put me into [the] youth detention centre.’

The social worker described himself as a surfer and asked Edward if he liked beaches. ‘I said “Yeah, I like the beach but … I’ve never been … places that [have] surf and bigger beaches”.’

Edward didn’t realise he was being groomed, and when the man suggested that he take Edward on a weekend holiday to some surf beaches, Edward was excited.

‘I said, “That’d be great”. So, I just thought he had trust in me … I let Mum know and let Dad know and he said that he got … the ball rolling, but he didn’t. He’s not supposed to do that … He’d broken the code and I didn’t know that, that him taking me away on his time off, to spend time together on time off – he’s only to see me and deal with me on … his working hours.’

The man drove Edward to a motel on the coast many hours away from Edward’s home. Once they reached the town, the man drove to a remote spot and began to ask Edward questions.

‘[He asked], “Have you ever masturbated?” I said, “What’s that?” I had no idea what that meant … This was not what I was expecting, you know. It was a real shock and this is when I started getting really scared.’

Edward asked to be taken home and the man threatened him with being locked up. The man made Edward attend a nudist beach and then, late that afternoon, he went out drinking with four friends, leaving Edward in the motel room. The group of men came back many hours later.

‘They were all drinking … bottles of beers … playing cards at the table … and I was sitting on the bed and all frightened, didn’t know what was going on … they were all drunk and I was always scared of drunks because of my father.’

The men, including the social worker, made Edward get undressed, they tied and gagged him with duct tape and raped him repeatedly. Edward was told no one would believe him if he told the authorities and he would be sent to juvenile detention.

‘I don’t know who the hell these four other young men were … I don’t know where they came from … they never mentioned names … I thought … I’m going to die … [They] had turns and laughed.’

Edward went into shock. ‘I don’t know where I was really … full of a lot of fear.’

In the morning, the social worker drove Edward back to the city. Edward was bleeding and injured but the man didn’t offer him any help. He told Edward that, ‘You belong to me’, and, ‘I own you now’, and ‘I’ll be seeing you on a regular basis and we’re going to keep doing this’. He kept sexually abusing Edward, often in his office while other child welfare staff were outside, every week for months. It was only when the family moved away, after much agitation to do so by Edward, that the abuse stopped.

Edward’s behaviour deteriorated, ‘because of how angry and hurt I was from what happened to me’. He was taken into juvenile detention for a short time, where he was also sexually abused. He developed a chronic drinking problem and became addicted to drugs by the time he was a young adult to cope with his memories. He told no one about the abuse.

‘I kept it a secret all those years … I told nobody … I blocked it all out.’

When he was in his late 20s he disclosed the sexual abuse to family members and they encouraged him to report the abuse to children’s services. He did so and, eventually, the departmental head believed his story. ‘He said “We believe you. We know you’re not lying”.’ Edward has since received some compensation from the Queensland government.

Edward considers himself ‘basically illiterate’ and he receives the disability pension. He has trust issues and significant difficulties forming lasting connections with people. ‘Can’t hold a relationship to anybody. I’m very screwed up.’

Edward has support from his family and close friends and his doctor and therapist. His work with a therapist was hugely significant in changing his approach to his life and his future.

‘I’m a much more happier person … I’m not so angry anymore.’

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