‘As a child I had nightmares and I used to wander around the passages of the orphanage to try and get back to sleep. When Beth Tyler found me in the passages she used to belt me. She used to belt me with either coat hangers or using her hands. Sometimes she would belt me two or three times a day.’
Elliot doesn’t know why one of the workers in his Church of England orphanage took such a dislike to him, but on numerous occasions during the late 1940s, he and his sisters were ‘picked on’ by staff member, Beth Tyler.
After Elliot was sexually abused by an older boy, Julian Peters, he told Tyler but she replied that ‘those sort of things don’t happen’ in the orphanage and ‘clipped’ him. Elliot then disclosed the abuse during a rare visit from his father, but was again told he was making things up.
The abuse started when Elliot was six years old and hadn’t been in the orphanage very long. He first encountered Peters after being trapped by him in the boys’ toilets.
‘I fought back but he was stronger than me. He then anally penetrated me.’
Elliot estimates that he was raped 12 or 13 times by Peters, and developed such a fear of going to the toilets, that he’d sometimes soil himself. Doing so led to him being ‘belted’ by Tyler.
Beatings were also meted out by the two superintendents Elliot met during the seven years he was in the home. The gardener was also very violent and years later came up to Elliot in the street and apologised for his behaviour.
After he’d left the home and while still in his teenage years, Elliot had met Tyler and she too had apologised. He thought her reasons for doing so might have been because she had a fear of him turning up unannounced and demanding some kind of justice.
Elliot said he was on his way to becoming an alcoholic after he left the orphanage and was anxious and prone to panic attacks. He saw one doctor for treatment of his symptoms but didn’t disclose the sexual abuse and was prescribed medication.
He joined the army as a young man and served in Vietnam. Afterwards he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder with one psychologist telling him he most likely had it before he left but now had ‘a double dose’.
Receiving medical care had presented obstacles to Elliot throughout his life. ‘I cannot bring myself to have prostate checks’, he said. He’d put off some treatments because they’d involved procedures that brought back memories of the rapes.
In about 2004, Elliot was sitting at the dinner table with his wife and sister when the subject of sexual abuse came up, and he disclosed what had happened to him in the orphanage.
‘My wife gave me the biggest hug she has ever given me when I told her. She has been very supportive’, Elliot said. He’d also since told a psychologist, someone he’d grown to trust and who he felt he could still call on when needed.
On a couple of occasions, Elliot had talked briefly to others about his experiences in the orphanage, but had been met with denials from people who couldn’t believe such things could happen. He thought his comments about the orphanage were the reason he’d been left off invitation lists for reunions.
He hadn’t reported Peters to Victoria Police and heard that he’d died. At one stage Elliot approached a lawyer about seeking compensation but was told he was ‘too old’, which he thought might have been a reference to the statute of limitations having expired. Following the advent of the Royal Commission however, he’d been rung by the same lawyer inviting him to resume discussions about a claim.
Elliot described his strength as coming from his wife and children, as well as his involvement in community activities and those of the Catholic Church. He’d converted to Catholicism in order to get married.
He thought that safety was much improved for children now.
‘There’s some of them still that way inclined but I think they’ve got rid of all the Brothers, the bad eggs ... It’s starting to go the right way. It’s about time things have sort of got turned around.’