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Hamish Lee's story

‘You have these range of emotions in your teens and I just felt like I had this massive secret that I was ashamed of, that it was my fault.’

Hamish described his family life as ‘chaotic’, and they would often move from place to place in housing commission homes. His mother was troubled and had difficulty raising three children, and his father worked a lot. Being at home was hard for him as his parents’ marriage was crumbling.

At primary school in the 1980s Hamish was known as the ‘the Christian kid’. His peers would make fun of him because he loved learning, and would try to get him to swear in front of their teachers. Although he didn’t have many friends he found solace with the Christian church he attended with his family.

At nine years old Hamish worked for the church’s groundskeeper, Gerald Mitchell, helping mow the church’s lawn on weekends. It was here on the church grounds that Mitchell would sexually abuse him after a day of work.

‘I remember my job was to empty the catcher, get rid of the grass and put it in a bin or something. I would do this with him every weekend and I remember I was getting paid 50c every day I did the job. But at the end of each day, I would find myself in a public toilet cubicle. He would lock the door and take me in there and have oral sex with me.’

The same thing happened several times whilst Hamish and his family attended the church. He never told anyone about what Mitchell did to him.

This abuse ceased when Hamish’s family relocated to another suburb and began attending Assemblies of God church located closer to their new home.

When Hamish turned 13, he joined a weekend youth group run by the Assemblies of God church. This group was of great comfort because he was surrounded by kids that were Christian like him.

He developed a close bond with the group’s leader and minister in training, Leo, who would transport him to and from youth group frequently. He also invited Hamish to his 21st birthday, and would often find reasons for them to spend time together.

Leo took Hamish ‘under his wing’ and Hamish eventually had a small leadership role with the youth group. As soon as Hamish turned 15, Leo started to invite Hamish over for sleepovers.

‘I didn’t even know the abuse was happening initially. I’d sleep and I would wake up with things happening. I thought I was dreaming, I was almost certain I was dreaming at the first couple of occasions. Until I woke up one morning and I was in pain.’

Leo sexually abused Hamish several times over one year. Hamish said that he ‘felt trapped’ and ‘didn’t know how to remove’ himself from the situation because of his friendship with Leo.

After turning 16, Hamish ‘couldn’t take it anymore’ and confided in the church’s minister about the sexual abuse.

‘Their response was that I was engaging in sodomy, intentionally. I was partaking, I was a willing participant and I allowed it to go on. Up until that point, I had a bit of a leadership role within church. I had my own children’s groups around me. I was removed from all of that … I believe the same thing happened to [Leo]; he was removed and he walked away from the church.’

Taking ‘a back seat’ in the church and youth group was upsetting for Hamish. He felt that his life was slowly falling apart, and that he was living in a ‘dark place’. In his late teens he engaged in minor criminal activity. With a criminal record, he could not fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.

Since discussing the abuse with the church’s minister, Hamish has only told his wife and the Commissioner about it. He said that he was managing quite well before contacting the Commission with his story, but now sees a psychologist and feels like his ‘demons are killing’ him.

Hamish has trouble trusting people and is often destructive with friendships, distancing himself because he feels he doesn’t ‘need anyone’. Often it seems to him he puts ‘a question mark on everyone’s head’. His relationship with his family is strained, especially with his mother, as he thinks she should have recognised the signs of the abuse at the time.

Hamish has since lost faith in the Assemblies of God Church for their lack of empathy towards his abuse. He said that he was against how the Church handled his situation and that their secrecy about sexual abuse is wrong. He feels strongly about having more protection by having volunteer parents and cameras in churches when development program gatherings are in session.

Hamish has not seen either of his perpetrators since he was abused by them. Hamish is ‘paranoid’ about reporting Leo and Mitchell to the police. He feels that if they both deny his claims, he will not have enough evidence to prove his case against them.

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