Erroll was a ‘naughty little kid’ with undiagnosed ADHD, who grew up ‘really angry’ and ‘violent’. From a young age, he’d been sent to see psychologists and counsellors, and when his cousin Sam, who was a teacher, stepped in to assume a ‘big brother role’, his parents welcomed the help. However, looking back, Erroll can now see that Sam was grooming him and his family.
One night, when Erroll was in primary school, Sam played a drinking game with him and got him drunk. Erroll woke up to find Sam fellating him. ‘I was terrified, I just froze’, he said.
The next day, Sam took Erroll on outings, and did ‘all that dirty shit they do to make up for what they’ve done, and make themselves feel better, or make me feel as though I’m not going to say anything’. There were no threats, and there was no mention of what had happened, so Erroll was left to conclude that ‘you do stupid things when you drink alcohol’.
Sam stayed ‘in the picture’ after that. He took Erroll on outings, but did not abuse him again, so Erroll started to think that he must have imagined the whole thing.
In the mid-1980s, when Erroll was in his mid-teens, he was sent to live with Sam in a regional town in Western Australia, and to attend the public high school that Sam had been posted to. There was no abuse to begin with, but Erroll can now see how Sam was grooming him as well as other children.
One night, once again, Erroll woke up to find Sam fellating him. Erroll told an adult housemate who said ‘you’ve got to get the fuck out of here’. Erroll then managed to ring his father who said, somewhat disappointingly, ‘don’t let it happen again, and we’ll get you out of there as soon as we can’. Erroll had previously seen Sam tear up the place when he broke his curfew, and thought that Sam was going to kill him. So a few days later, with the help of a friend, he fled.
Now that he was safe, Erroll was reluctant to involve the police. However, encouraged by two adults who told him he had ‘an obligation to other children’, he went to the police who then charged Sam with the second, but not the first, incident of sexual abuse.
Erroll was heard and supported by the police, and felt validated by them. However, he wonders whether the trial process was more damaging than the actual experience of sexual abuse. He received no pre-trial preparation, had no family support in the court room, and got confused and scared during cross-examination and ‘just wanted to get the fuck out of there’.
After the trial, there was no follow up, not even a phone call to tell him the verdict. Only when a hostile relative rang up to abuse him, did Erroll learn that Sam had got off. ‘Everyone thought I was full of shit,’ he said.
About 20 years later, when Sam was charged with the sexual abuse of another child, Erroll supported the victim and parents throughout the trial. The jury was not allowed to know about the previous case with Erroll, and Sam once again got off.
Erroll believes he should have been a professional, like everyone else in his family. He hates ‘excuse-making’, or anyone playing the victim, but wants people to know that ‘that motherfucker is responsible for fucking my life up’. Erroll dropped out of school and took up surfing. He self-medicated with marijuana and took most drugs that came his way. Until he was diagnosed with ADHD and medicated, he got into fights and could never hold down a job. Because of stigma and masculine ‘bravado’, he told no one else, other than his partner, about the abuse. He still suffers from a ‘crippling social anxiety’.
Later in life, Erroll resumed his education, and is now part way through a university degree. He was an ‘over-protective parent’, but takes pride in the fact that his own children were never sexually abused.
Erroll avoided disclosing the abuse to counsellors because he did not want to ‘muddy the water’. However, when he and his wife separated a few years ago, Erroll spent some time in a psychiatric hospital where he received treatment that enabled him to begin to focus on this issue.
‘I understand all the things I need to, like it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I did that brought it on,’ he said. However, knowing that Sam is still a teacher ‘really upsets’ him. It brings back his sense of rage and ‘malice’.
‘If I had the money, and knew I wouldn’t be caught, I’d have him killed. If I saw him in the street, I’d attack him. If I found out where he lived or worked, I’d do something malicious,’ he said.
Until people accept that ‘teaching attracts paedophiles like the fire brigade attracts arsonists’, Erroll believes that institutions will continue to fail children. He also believes that Australia should adopt the French system and allow for a verdict of ‘insufficient evidence’ because ‘surely there’s enough long-term studies that show that children just don’t make that shit up’.