Graham Walter's story

Graham grew up in regional Victoria in the late 1960s. His father went to the pub every night after work and spent a lot of his pay on alcohol and cigarettes, leaving his mother little to feed and clothe their large number of children.

Graham’s father was very abusive and seemed to target him more than the other children. ‘Shocking … broken cheek bones, broken nose, nearly pulled me ears off me bloody head … He was a shocker.’

Between the ages of five and 15, Graham spent a lot of time with his older cousins, who sexually abused him and his siblings. Graham told the Commissioner he believes his cousins learnt this behaviour from their parents, who engaged in wife-swapping parties in their home.

Graham began to get into trouble for stealing. ‘I must’ve had … ADHD or whatever. I was a cheeky little beggar. I’m sure I was a nice kid, but I was cheeky and I was always up to mischief of some sort which was not tolerable at the time.’

When Graham was 15, a friend lent him $40 and gave him a watch. Graham had no idea both were stolen. The police came and Graham was charged with theft and sent to a juvenile justice centre for two months.

Graham told the Commissioner that everyone at the centre was outside having a barbecue one day when one of the guards said to another, ‘I’m just going to take Graham to do something inside’.

When they got to their section the guard showed Graham pornographic magazines and ordered him to get undressed, get into the shower and to masturbate himself, while he watched from the office outside the bathroom. When he was finished, the guard told Graham to dry himself off, get dressed and join the others outside in the yard. This abuse occurred about three or four times.

Graham told the Commissioner, ‘As I got older I knew that what he was doing was wrong, but at the time, I was just happy to be fed. I was almost glad to be locked up in that sense … I’d get three meals a day and 10 cigarettes’.

The guard made no threats, but Graham did not report him. ‘There’s no reporting. There’s no such thing. You cannot. For anything. Even for a broken window. You can’t say, “You did it, Fred” … [They’d say] “Oh, you’re a dobber are you?” Well, now you’re in trouble … So you don’t say nothing. It’s a code within itself. You just don’t say nothing.’

Graham told the Commissioner that he sees a difference between the abuse by his cousins and what happened with the guard. ‘[The guard was] in a position of trust … meant to be the father figure … [I’m] not the plaything for your pleasure.’ With his cousins, ‘I would have put it down to experimenting or whatever, but with an adult … you’re taken advantage of because I’m locked up and that’s the only reason you’ve got access to me … You can wash things off ‘cause it is like I said, childish stuff, but you can’t wash off a grown man, if you know what I mean’.

Graham told the Commissioner the physical and sexual abuse he experienced has affected his adult life. Until about eight years ago he smoked up to 90 cones a day. He now drinks half a bottle of homemade whiskey a night. But he is quick to emphasise that he always ensures his mortgage and any other bills are paid on time. ‘You’ve always got to keep up … you have to prove everything.’

When he was 21, Graham began having suicidal thoughts and consulted a psychiatrist. ‘I kept falling into this black hole. I used to say, it’s like you’re falling backwards and you know, you can’t sort of … you can’t get out of it, of this circle of your past and I want the past to be put into the past, and I just wanted to resolve all the issues and get ‘em out. Get ‘em out and get on with it.’ Graham only visited the psychiatrist once and didn’t mention the abuse at the juvenile justice centre.

It took Graham another 10 years to ‘actually get into these counsellors and actually … I’ve never told about much, if anything about the molestation. It’s more about the … beatings and the starvation … didn’t have any friends at school, just all that sort of stuff’.

The sexual abuse is not something that is constantly on his mind. ‘It’s always been there. It’s just one of them things that … it could happen walking down the street … it could happen anywhere, any time’, Graham said.

‘It’s just remembering things … it’s just, you know, in the back of your head. It pops up and you know it’s there. It’s always there, it’s just … I’ve got a life to live … Generally, unless I’m sort of, like now, bringing it up, it never gets brought up. You just get on with it.’

Although Graham has been married for a long time, ‘you lose this bit of thing … You lose this bit of trust thing, even in yourself, that you can’t even … It’s that love thing. Sometimes … the cake mix is missing something. Someone’s taken something out of the bloody mix and it’s just not rising like it should. It’s a bit flat if you know what I mean’.

He told the Commissioner, ‘I think there is light at the end of the tunnel but it’s just a time thing, and now you can work things out, let things go and you can get on with things. That’s part of the putting the mix all back together’.

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