By the time Elton met Jim Tyson, sexual abuse had become normalised to him.
He was first sexually abused in the early 1970s by his neighbour, when he was just six years old. Then from the age of nine, he became involved in a paedophile ring, having oral and anal sex with various men.
It began with someone in his local area in Sydney’s western suburbs. ‘I got picked up and taught by one person, and then just passed on from one to another.’
At 14, he got caught vandalising a railway station with some other boys. Elton was charged with being ‘uncontrollable’, and sentenced to six months in juvenile detention. He was released early because an older man who had been having sex with him found him a job in a restaurant. The magistrate ordered that Elton live in a Salvation Army lodge in Sydney.
The lodge was run by Salvation Army officer Jim Tyson and his wife. Most of the boys staying there had left school and were around Elton’s age. Elton lived there on and off for the next six years.
Tyson started sexually abusing Elton almost as soon as he moved into the hostel. Elton suspects Tyson may have targeted him because he saw other paedophiles hanging around outside, waiting for him.
From the outset, Tyson also seemed possessive of him. ‘The first day I came home late, my pants were around my ankles, to see if I’d been playing with anyone else.’
The abuse by Tyson would happen around twice a week, usually in an annexe to the room he and his wife shared within the lodge. It also happened in Tyson’s car when they went away on holidays together.
Most of the time, Tyson performed oral sex on Elton, masturbating as he did so. He would then get Elton to fellate him. A handful of times he also had anal sex with Elton. ‘After the abuse, every time, he’d cry and apologise.’
Tyson threatened to send Elton back to the detention centre if he didn’t do what he was told. Elton would get favours in exchange for the abuse too, and would be allowed to break curfew.
Generally, the Tysons treated Elton better than the other boys there, and he thought of them as second parents. Even so, he does not think Tyson’s wife ever knew about the abuse, as she was usually out when it took place.
Elton had a welfare officer in the city, but did not tell him about the abuse. He thought the officer might be gay, and did not trust him not to have some involvement with paedophiles.
He didn’t tell anyone else either. Once, when he was younger, he had tried to tell his parents about sexual abuse by another man. ‘It came across like I was to blame, so I didn’t tell them about nothing else.’ Also, Elton’s feelings towards Tyson as a kind of ‘father figure’ made it hard to speak out against him.
Since the abuse in his childhood, Elton has been diagnosed with numerous psychiatric disorders – ‘but they’re just names’ – and has had periods of suicidal ideation. ‘Every time you get up, you get knocked down. Even when I saw the shrink she said, “It’s a wonder you’re still alive”.’
He’s not sure though, about his diagnosis of depression. ‘It’s just my nature. I don’t smile – but I’m starting to.’ He doesn’t trust people, and has few friends. He lost a relationship recently, because his partner could no longer deal with his ‘moods’.
Elton gets on well with his parents and siblings, but doesn’t tell them everything as ‘one person screwed up is enough’. He has promised his sister he won’t kill himself, as he doesn’t want to ‘break her heart’.
Accessing consistent ongoing counselling has been difficult. It is hard for Elton to build up a rapport with a counsellor, and start to tell his story, only to have them leave to work elsewhere. This has happened to him a number of times in community sector organisations. He now feels that ‘pondering on it is not going to help.’
In the 1990s, when he gave evidence at an inquiry about other perpetrators, he found it very hard to even say Tyson’s name. He believes that Tyson is now deceased.
In recent years Elton has been assisted by a community legal service, and enlisted a legal firm who specialise in matters like his. With their assistance, he made multiple victims of crime applications, and received a significant amount of compensation.
He told the Royal Commission that there should be an independent social worker coming to speak with children in care, and that staff should be rotated at these institutions.
He has now done a trade course, and has started his own business. He credits his innate personal resilience with getting him through the hard times in his life. ‘What’s happened, happened, there’s nothing I can do. Either be miserable the rest of my life, or take a step forward.’