Evan Thomas's story

Evan’s parents separated when he was a toddler. He was raised by his grandparents for about ten years before moving in with his father, who worked away a lot, and a stepmother he didn’t get on with. ‘I wasn’t an angel by any stretch of the imagination’, he said. ‘I just started mixing with the wrong people, wrong crowds, and it just ended up snowball effect.’

Evan was made a state ward in the late 1970s, and spent the next five years in various residential care facilities for young people or adult men. In these institutions, Evan experienced physical abuse at the hands of staff and other residents, and was so scared that he occasionally ran away. He said that he has no memory of ‘ever going to school once. I don’t remember ever having a text book in my hand ... So I’ve had really no education since I was about 13, 14 years of age’.

Evan was sexually abused during his first placement in a government-run youth hospital which accommodated disturbed or orphaned children, or those who had broken the law. One morning, a worker by the name of Jeff Walsh drove Evan to his house where he locked him in a shed overnight, before taking him out on his boat the next day to rape him. On the drive back, Walsh threatened to make Evan’s stay at the facility indefinite if he ever told anyone.

After a transfer to another facility, Evan reported Walsh to his case manager, Linda Formosa, who said, ‘Don't be stupid, these things don't happen, adults don't behave this way’.

‘She was my social worker, she was my go-to person, she was the person that was supposed to be looking after me, and she failed me’, Evan said. ‘That was a turning point in my life where I went from being borderline good boy/bad boy, to being a straight bad boy, because if that’s how it’s going to be, well, this is how I’m going to be.’

From then on, Evan ‘was pretty much out of control’. He committed crimes and went to jail, and developed a drug problem which he still struggles with today. He found it hard to stay employed, and cried as he explained how ‘I’ve never had a full time job more than 12 months in my life. I’ve never been on holiday. I’ve never received holiday pay. I basically had nothing’.

Evan buried the memories until five years ago when a radio program about child sexual abuse caught him by surprise. ‘It was just like a light switch just went on, and I just started to bawl’, he said. He had to pull over to the side of the road ‘and cry and cry and cry and cry’. From that day forward, ‘I knew it was my time, it was my time to do something, I just knew that’.

A year or two later, Evan was put in touch with a detective who made him feel ‘very comfortable’ as she took his statement. When she revealed that Walsh was a known paedophile who had since died in an accident, Evan felt like ‘it was never going to be finalised’.

‘My first thought was, “I hope it hurt, I hope it bloody well hurt you”. Then after that I just felt a bit of an empty feeling. I thought, “Now I’ve stirred all these hornets up … ”’

Evan’s family now knows that something happened to him, but he can’t tell them the details. ‘I don’t want to be polluting their brain’, he said. ‘It’s bad enough it’s in mine.’ When he recently told his father, he was hurt by the minimal response. ‘I would’ve liked “I’m sorry that happened to you”’, he said.

Evan is currently pursuing a claim against the government. He said that he has misgivings about a process in which people ‘are going to benefit from my misfortune’, and feels that money has little relevance. ‘It would be nice, but it’s at the tail end of everything, it really is ... It’s not my motivation at all’.

Evan draws strength from his supportive wife and close-knit family. He said that ‘there was not a lot of love between father and son passed down for quite a few generations, but I was determined to be the new link in the new chain going forward.’ Evan takes every opportunity to tell his son that ‘Your dad’s here, brother, your dad’s here for you every day’.

Coming to the Commission was a big step for Evan, but it showed him how strong he’s become. ‘It’s been quite empowering this for me, it really has. Like I was so scared before … It makes me feels better, definitely makes me feel better’.

Now that he’s on this journey, he is determined to follow it to the end. ‘I’m going to stay the course for sure. I haven’t come this far up the track to get off it now … I will definitely keep my mind open to some counselling’.

Evan is also pleased that he’s doing something ‘for the good of the children that are coming behind us. If I can help one kid, job done.’

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