Franklin grew up in a very large family in regional Queensland in the late 1950s and early 60s. His mother was an alcoholic with mental health issues and his father was rarely home due to working six or seven days a week as a labourer.
When he was 12 years old, Franklin and several of his siblings were placed in a state-run children’s facility. The children were well cared for and most of the staff were ‘good people’. One of the carers, Gary Becker, would take groups of children, ‘half a dozen of us at a time’, away on weekends for activities.
Becker was in his 20s at the time and would also often take children to the local store and let them buy lollies, which were special treats. Afterwards he would take them to his flat where there would be toys and cake. One by one the children would then be taken into his bedroom while the others were eating and playing.
Franklin recalled that when it was his turn to go into Becker’s room, ‘he wanted me to masturbate him … I started to but I ended up running out of the room. But that didn’t stop him from doing it to the other kids’. Becker abused Franklin approximately three times during his nine-month stay at that home, but he believes the smaller children were abused far more.
After Franklin returned home, his mother was admitted to a mental health facility and he began ‘playing up’. He was picked up by the police who deemed him ‘uncontrollable’ and, as the other facilities in the area were full, was placed in a government youth hospital.
After arriving, Franklin was sent to solitary confinement. ‘They locked me in the cell … Two weeks, it seemed like two years.’ He was then placed in a dormitory where he was physically and sexually assaulted by bigger children. Although he heard rumours about the staff, Franklin was never abused by them himself. ‘I got sexually assaulted by bigger kids. I never got assaulted by no staff … I know it went on from other kids talking, but I never experienced that.’
Franklin began playing up at the hospital in an effort to be removed from the dormitory and returned to solitary confinement. Eventually he was placed in a cell with one other boy and did not experience further abuse.
After nine months Franklin was sent to a different home run by the Methodist Church. ‘It was a private institution … It was good first couple of months.’ Unlike the first two institutions, Franklin was able to attend school, was taken on outings and was not abused. However, after those first few months a man turned up who he believed to be Gary Becker. This man tried to molest Franklin, who by this time was not prepared to take it.
‘In my mind it was him. Same face, same body, same everything … He tried it on me. I don’t think he even recognised me if it was him. And by then it didn’t work, of course. By then I was a year older and I was a lot smarter. Mate, I kicked the hell out of it. I let it have it in the face and everything … I think he went and got smaller kids then.’
After three months Franklin and some other children ran away to the police station where they tried to report Becker. The police did not take their allegations seriously and returned them to the home.
‘As it turned out when we got back to the home they told my house parent … Anyway I got called up to the office … and he walked straight up to me and he hit me right across the face. I still have a numbness there when I think about it. And boom! He said “I won’t tolerate lies”. I was just called a liar … That really destroyed me. I thought I was in paradise and then it turned into hell for me.’
Franklin was returned to the youth hospital as punishment and was then sent to a different children’s home, this time run by the Salvation Army. Franklin doesn’t recall being sexually abused there but suspects he may have blocked it out. ‘The groundsman there, I heard stories about him. It could’ve been true that he used to give kids smokes for doing things. But I was never going to come into that. I was too wise after everything.’
By the time he again went home, he had lost all respect for authority and began self-medicating. ‘I used to have two stubbies every night just to cope. Marijuana, well, I learnt to smoke that when I was in the home … I have a cone every night, have done since I was 14 years old.’
As a young man Franklin worked for his father but continued to use alcohol and drugs, spending time in jail for drink driving offences. Throughout his adult life he tried to put his past behind him but has struggled, particularly in the past 10 years. He experiences insomnia and a lack of appetite, which he self-medicates with marijuana.
Franklin married, has three children and raised his grandson from birth. His grandson is particularly supportive and gives Franklin cause to keep going. ‘I’m lucky I’ve got him … he’s my protector.’
Franklin received compensation through the Queensland Redress Scheme as well as directly through the institution which employed Gary Becker. He believes at least two of his siblings were also sexually abused, but as he has little contact with any of his them he can’t be sure.
He has been treated by a psychiatrist and believes he would not be alive today without his help. ‘There was a point where I thought I was over all this … but the dreams never stopped. They never have, they’re never going to.’