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Gino's story

‘It wasn’t until I heard it on the radio that you actually reflect … It was at that moment that I go, “Something wrong happened”. But over the many years you relive the experience and you rationalise it going, “It wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad”. That’s how I rationalised it.’

It was only last year that Gino heard an interview with a sexual abuse survivor. As he listened, Gino realised he had been abused by the same man.

‘I had to pull over, I think, for about half an hour on the side of the road. I just had tears running down my eyes, going “Why didn’t I do something?”’

In the mid-1970s Gino, who was about 12 years old, was taken by his mother to a doctor in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Gino was sick with the flu, and the doctor asked his mother to leave the room during the examination. Gino believes that the power of the doctor in those days meant that his mother wouldn’t argue.

‘Knowledge was power … there was certainly a knowledge gap. And for a family like mine, neither parents nor grandparents had ever been to university … so you had quite a divide between educated middle class and working middle class.’

The doctor sexually abused Gino on two occasions.

By the time he heard the radio interview, the doctor had been charged, convicted and jailed for offences in the 70s.

‘If I had done something sooner, maybe I could have helped the child that I was sooner, and possibly helped convict or do something or somehow assist in some way … I felt such guilt that I wasn’t able to help that person [on the radio] because my career has been about doing things … if I think about it, for others.’

Gino told his wife about the sexual abuse and has been supported by his doctor and a psychologist.

‘It felt like it was a black star inside … it just exploded. You know, you kept it compact and isolated for so long, it just let itself out. It was really good.’

Gino works in an adversarial profession and became distressed when he realised the extent of his abuser’s crimes. He had to remove himself from much of his work to avoid any confrontation.

‘It’s kind of like your emotions are ready to pull apart. It’s tissue paper. And so it’s very difficult … you over respond or over-react. And I know that’s not right.’

Now in his 50s, Gino also had to take time out to start healing.

‘There’s this spiral that happens inside you … where you go, “Oh, hang on a second, if I take on too much, I’ll break”. And so, part of that breakage or managing your own emotions is, for me, taking time to make sure that I can adapt to whatever the new self is.’

Gino has had an eclectic career and believes he occupied himself with work to try to block out the abuse. He feels that the impact has manifested through his low expectations of people.

‘You accept less is okay. You accept that people not doing what they are supposed to be doing [is okay] … you rationalise their irrational behaviour.’

He has been interviewed by police about the abuse but has had no update from them and finds the absence of information difficult to manage. ‘The void is terrible’, he said.

He’s keen to see his abuser, who is now an old man, face further charges.

‘If it means that I can assist in the prosecution … I don’t care whether he’s locked up for the rest of his life, quite frankly. I just don’t care … You just want to know why he would abuse so many kids … why he would ever think that was okay.’

He’s also thinking about pursuing civil compensation but is anxious about how ‘damage’ can be determined.

‘I don’t know how that’s quantified. That’s why when someone says, “What did you lose?” Well, you certainly lose a lot of dignity, self-respect … respect for authority, over-compensation … unknowingness, uncertainty … lack of decision-making processes, letting others decide for you, all of that becomes part of that melting pot and I don’t know the answer.’

Gino has difficulty understanding why he was abused but, with the support of his family, he’s learning to manage the impacts. He also knows those impacts will continue for the rest of his life.

‘Each time it keeps coming forward I have the same set of emotions … So, it’s not resolved. I don’t think it will ever be resolved.

‘I feel for those who never find a way of their own. They’re the ones that we’ve got to make sure that our grandkids never get to that point.’

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