Rain, hail or shine, Ferris went to church every Sunday with his mother. He was always very happy when the Anglican minister told him he was a good boy.
In the mid-1960s, when Ferris was 11, a younger minister took over their parish in Western Australia. Andrew Buccino was in his mid-20s and had long hair, and Ferris liked him straightaway. When Buccino asked him to be an altar boy, he was excited and proud to have a role within the church.
One afternoon, Buccino offered Ferris a lift home and sexually abused him in his car. Ferris remembers Buccino putting his hands down his pants and touching him. This became a weekly occurrence.
Sometimes there were other men in the car, one of them a musician from the church. Ferris didn’t know what to do. He didn’t think he could fight back because the men were so tall.
‘I wasn’t as big as them, I was just trapped.’
Ferris was also invited to spend the night in the rectory numerous times. He often woke up to Buccino touching him and masturbating.
He isn’t sure how many times he was sexually abused by Buccino and his friends, but said it went on for four years. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t think anyone would believe him. He also didn’t want to get into trouble.
The impact was immediate. He started drinking when he was 12 and continued to do so for many years. His grades dropped dramatically and he acted out in class. By his mid-teens he was using drugs to try to numb the memories of the abuse.
He left school early and moved away to start full-time work. He also left the church and never saw Buccino or the other men again.
As an adult, his career choices were limited. He also found it hard to give up alcohol and drugs, and got in trouble with the law several times.
‘I just never felt good enough’, he said.
In the mid-80s, he was hospitalised after a drug overdose. He was put in touch with a counsellor, who helped him with his addictions. However, he couldn’t talk about the abuse.
He never reported to Buccino to police, believing that his criminal history would affect his credibility. He’s also never approached the Anglican Church or applied for compensation.
It wasn’t until the mid-90s that Ferris thought of Buccino again. He’d heard that the minister had been charged with several child sex offences, but was very angry to learn that he’d killed himself before going to prison.
Ferris’s first disclosure of the sexual abuse was to the Royal Commission. He’s pleased that there’s now a place for survivors to be heard and believed, and hopes his story will motivate others to come forward as he doesn’t want anyone to suffer the way that he has.