Godfrey's story

Godfrey was born into a large family in Tasmania during the 1940s. He describes his parents as ‘wonderful’ and ‘hard-working’ people.

Growing up with the wrong crowd, Godfrey started to get a bit rebellious and got into trouble with the local police. At 14 he appeared before the children’s court and was sent to a government reformatory for 10 months.

New arrivals spent about a month in a room like a cell before going into a dormitory with the other boys. After a few weeks a staff member, Sean, came into Godfrey’s room and accused him of masturbating. Godfrey didn’t know what he meant by that, so Sean asked him whether he was playing with himself.

Godfrey was then forced to masturbate and, finally, hit over the head for doing so. Sean threatened him with being kept in the cell indefinitely if he told anyone about this abuse.

The same thing happened a number of times, and sometimes Sean would masturbate himself. Each time Sean made Godfrey clean up the cell and threatened that if he told anyone he would be kept in the cell indefinitely. Once, Sean attempted to rape Godfrey but Godfrey wouldn’t keep still.

Finally, Godfrey was moved to the dormitory with the other boys. However, he was soon put back into the cell as punishment after he accidentally snapped a fence post when he was driving a tractor, and was again abused by Sean.

Godfrey subsequently had problems with alcohol but gave up drinking when his daughter was born many years ago.

Throughout his life, Godfrey has struggled to make friends. ‘I suppose you could say, if I died tonight there would be quite a few at my funeral, but there wouldn’t be anyone that I’ve actually been close to and shared my life with … only immediate family.’

Godfrey never went to the police because he was concerned about people in his small town finding out. ‘It’s a bit like if a totally innocent person was branded as something in a small town, you know. Three parts of the town – and he may be proven innocent of what that was, but three parts of the town would believe him, but then just that section of the town that say, “Well, you know, where there’s smoke there’s fire. He must have done something”.’

He was never able to tell his parents about the abuse but recently, after a major accident, he told his wife and a psychologist. ‘I don’t know why I couldn’t pluck up the courage but I never, ever told my parents. You feel dirty. You feel cheap.’

The psychologist encouraged Godfrey to speak to the Tasmanian Review of Claims of Abuse from Adults in State Care as Children but he was disappointed that it was focused on providing compensation rather than providing support.

Godfrey accepted its offer of $28,000, although he subsequently regretted it, and has destroyed all the paperwork because he was afraid that his daughter would find it and learn about the abuse. He told the Commissioner that compensation hasn’t provided resolution for his past trauma.

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