Hayden Samuel grew up on his family’s farming properties in Victoria in the 1960s. His parents both worked. Hayden believes his father was suffering from PTSD arising from his army career in World War II and Korea. He was a violent man and one afternoon punched Hayden and left him unconscious in a paddock. ‘I realised that one day I wouldn’t wake up’, Hayden told the Commissioner.
Hayden was 14 years old. He left his family and found a job as an apprentice with the railways. He was based in Melbourne and lived for a while with other young apprentices in a boarding house.
One night Hayden was awoken by a tall adult man climbing into bed with him. The man groped Hayden, who reacted violently and forced the intruder out of his room.
Hayden moved into a disused carriage at the rail yards where he worked.
Life as an apprentice reminded Hayden of the months he’d spent at a private boys’ school. There was a pecking order and bullying was normal. ‘I was put in a coffin and dispatched out to Camberwell … they screwed the lid down. Left me afterwards in the wood shed and just had a good laugh all round.’
Hayden did not report the prank. ‘It’s like boarding school … if you make a row, you’ll be picked on till the cows come home.’
One night Hayden was returning to his derelict carriage bedroom when he was grabbed by several men. He was knocked out in the attack. ‘I regained consciousness and was blindfolded, but was aware I was in a train carriage. I had been restrained on a metal “horse” which had been built for the purposes of sexual abuse and was tied with hard old ropes in a manner which left me open to attack both in my face and also my lower body.’
Hayden was brutally raped by several men, perhaps as many as four. He is also sure there were other men present, ‘who got their pleasure from watching’.
Bleeding and dazed, Hayden was dragged out into the rail yard and left alone. Eventually he was found by other workers and taken to hospital. Doctors had to operate to repair severe damage to Hayden’s colon. It took him many months and further operations to recover.
Hayden’s reaction to the sexual abuse was influenced by community attitudes to homosexuality at that time, in the early 1970s. ‘At the hospital I recall the nurses laughing and making fun of me, treating me as though I was gay and that my injuries were a result of consensual homosexual sex.’ And Hayden was reluctant to approach the police. ‘[If] I go with what’s basically an effeminate men’s complaint to the police, I don’t really think I’d be given very much comfort.’
Though Hayden did not see his attackers, he believes he recognised some of them by voice and smell as Catholic chaplains who were attached to the Victorian railways at that time. Hayden believes paedophile rings within the Catholic Church became entrenched in the first half of the 20th century.
Hayden did not report the abuse officially, though he recalls telling his grandfather what had happened. Hayden’s supervisor at work arranged to move him ‘out of harm’s way’ into a rural placement. He worked with the railway for another six years, before switching careers.
Hayden married and had children, but struggled to trust people all his life. He did not speak of the abuse until the late 1990s, when he confided in a marriage counsellor.
‘I’ve lost my marriage, I’ve climbed the wall more times than I care to mention.’
Hayden has self-medicated with alcohol and ‘any amount of prescription drugs’, especially since the failure of his marriage. He is still dealing with almost constant anxiety.
Hayden has thought about suing for compensation and has applied for his files from his days at the railway. He has not found anything that he feels would corroborate his story of abuse. ‘I weighed it up in my own mind and decided the heartache of taking on the Victorian government, which it would be now, wasn’t worth the effort.’
Looking to the future, Hayden suggests people who are employed to look after children should have their reporting obligations built into their work contracts, as part of their ‘key performance indicators’. That would necessitate formal and documented training in dealing with vulnerable kids.
‘The people who are responsible for children – listen to what they say. Don’t turn around and say, “You’re lying”, or “It couldn’t have happened” …
‘Mothers and fathers need to know their own children too, and believe them.’