‘I was institutionalised when I was about three ... Mum was having a baby and my father … was more interested in alcohol than anything else. He was a very bad drunk, a violent drunk.’
After about six months in what he thinks was a children’s home or orphanage, Erskine went back to live with his family. ‘I had a very unhappy childhood. My sister … I didn’t realise at that stage was being continuously raped, primarily by my father. We thought she was pregnant to my father at one stage.’
Erskine’s father was in the air force and, as a result, the family moved around a lot. In the late 50s and early 60s they were living in western Victoria. It was here, when Erskine was about 10 years old, that he was first sexually abused.
One day a man in a shop asked Erskine to help him get something off a high shelf. When Erskine climbed up the ladder, the man fondled his genitals.
He quickly left the shop and never told anyone what had happened. ‘We don’t know the mentality of these people that do this thing. It’s terrible. If I had’ve made a complaint about him, I could’ve been in physical trouble.’
A few years later Erskine’s father was transferred to northern Australia where the family lived on the base.
‘Now, one night, it must have been about midnight, and I was sound asleep in my own bed … and I woke up with this gentleman, or this person, not gentleman, assaulting me. I was being masturbated. And I woke up through the act.’
‘I didn’t recognise him when he was in my bedroom. But he immediately left my bedroom and he walked out the bedroom door … The moon radiance came through the window outside and I could see his face clearly ... I made a 100 percent ID.’
‘He was well-known to me. I know him very well ... My father’s friend.’
Erskine said the abuse never happened again. Even though the perpetrator was also in the air force, he didn’t tell his parents.
‘I was perplexed with the first one, because it was totally out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting it. I just came out of there … I don’t know whether you’d call it “in shock” but probably. Extremely upset about it. But the second one was far worse … It has to have affected me but I can’t say how.’
Erskine didn’t talk much about his adult life, only that he has a few ex-wives and had spent time in a number of mental health facilities. ‘I’ve been in and out, too many times.’
In the late 2000s, he told his mother about the perpetrator at the air force base, and she encouraged him to make a police report.
‘They did take a statement but they did not follow it through. They said they contacted Air Force Records … but they said he was never in the air force and he was never registered. But he was in the air force, he was wearing uniform regularly.’
Erskine then made a report to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and had a much more positive experience. He felt he was taken seriously, and soon received compensation. ‘They had no doubt at all, immediately saying “Yes, we understand” … I think they found him.’
When he came to the Royal Commission Erskine was living alone, but said he had support through regular appointments with his psychiatrists.
‘They’ve reduced my medication recently. They told me that I was suffering from delusions of grandeur, schizophrenia, bi-polar, all that sort of rubbish. And I didn’t agree with any of it. I still don’t. So they’ve turned round now and said, “We’ve reduced your medication”. They’re keeping an eye on me that I don’t do something silly.’
While his mental health is an ongoing issue, Erskine hoped that his story would help others. ‘I want everyone to know. That’s why I feel comfortable here. I’m not worried about anything.’
‘I want you to do something with my interview and make it well known.’