Gordon and Grace's son Roger was born with a genetic disability that affected him intellectually and behaviourally. When Roger was 16 he was finally diagnosed. Before that they didn't know what his condition was. By then it was the 1990s.
'We were having more and more trouble with Roger getting violent … for years I was his punching bag. I was used as a punching bag as a child and I thought, you know. "I'm now married … I'm sick of it". Then Grace said one day "Look Darl, he's got to go into care", which rocked me because my wife come out of an orphanage.'
They had several meetings with department officials about getting Roger into care. 'One day she [Grace] said "I'm frightened of him". Woof, bang. As soon as she said she was frightened of him – didn't matter what I said – he was straight into care, which I was wrapped. … I assured her, and I still feel guilty and I feel as though she blames me still for what's happened, I said to her "What happened to you with the … abuse in orphanages, doesn't happen now. There's better controls”.'
However, this was not the case. Roger was moved into a state-run share house which had 24 hour live-in carers.
'We turned up at the house one day and Roger said "I'm sick and tired of David coming into the bathroom when I'm trying to have a shower, touching me".'
David was another resident. Straight after Roger's disclosure, Gordon reported to Roger's carers, his department caseworker and the service provider that ran the house. The response Gordon received from Roger's carers was to 'knock it off' and that 'Roger romances a lot. We don't take any notice of it'.
Gordon knew his son wasn't lying. He spoke of his son as a good communicator. They had raised him to be independent and integrated into society. Roger went to a mainstream school. 'We brought him up, as parents, to be normal first, problem second.' Roger was also taught sex education and about appropriate behaviour. Gordon could tell when Roger was lying and this was not one of those times.
Although Roger's caseworker said she would 'look into it', there was no adequate response. Roger and David continued to live in the same house for another six months. Through a chance comment from a staff member, Gordon discovered that David was known to be a 'sexual predator'.
Gordon fought for his son. He had heated, but never violent, meetings with staff and the department.
'The department classifies me as a trouble-maker, I need psychiatric help, I'm violent and everything else.’ Gordon was registered by the department as an 'unfit parent' and stripped of his rights as guardian.
But Gordon decided to take Roger elsewhere, to a facility in regional Victoria.
'And I fought every way I could to get him up there, to the point it's actually cost me nearly $100,000. 'Cause at 45 I owned everything [but now] I'm nearly 66 and I've still got a mortgage, again not through gambling or drinking. Through fighting to get my son in an environment where he could enjoy life and be safe.'
Gordon said he has had three mental breakdowns because of the stress. He's attempted suicide three times. Grace has had two strokes. 'There's been times where … it has pushed me to the point, to wonder, just to walk. Away from everything.' However, Gordon and Grace have stayed together in a loving marriage for over 40 years.
He never reported the sexual abuse to the police. 'That was my biggest mistake.' When he reflected why he didn't, he said, 'I got to the point, and I'm still at this point, I'm sick and tired of fighting and arguing'.
But Gordon won one of his biggest fights. 'The best thing I ever did was put Roger in [the new facility]. He's so, so happy.'