Horrie’s parents believed in God but they weren’t regular churchgoers. It was a student at his primary school in Melbourne who gave Horrie the idea of joining the local Boys’ Brigade, which was run by the Baptist Church in his street. Horrie joined in the late 1970s when he was eight and he enjoyed it.
He was a quiet, introverted kid. His dad was often away at work. He was also being bullied a lot at primary school but had an unsympathetic teacher, who unluckily for Horrie, taught him for three years in a row.
Deacon James Purdy was the leader of the local chapter of the Boys’ Brigade. He took young Horrie under his wing and became a bit of a father figure. In fact they became very close.
Deacon Purdy sexually abused Horrie regularly from the age of eight to the age of 17. The stress migraines he suffered from the bullying at school were intensified by the stress of the sexual abuse. Sometimes he came home from school with migraines so bad he’d throw up then sleep for 16 or 18 hours.
Purdy was ‘always in the vicinity’. He moved across the road from Horrie’s family. He could pop over for dinner if he wanted and of course he saw Horrie every Tuesday for Boys’ Brigade meetings.
The impact on Horrie at the time was ‘very isolating. It’s almost like you’re carrying this dirty little secret around with you constantly … Any little reference to being gay and you’d think, “Oh shit, do they know?”’ He became ‘so paranoid within himself’ that he shut down completely.
His mum knew something was wrong and he was referred to a psychologist when he was nine.
As Horrie got older, the Deacon ‘felt he could take liberties’. The sexual abuse, which happened at Boys’ Brigades events as well as at other people’s homes, became more intense and aggressive.
Deacon Purdy had an active role in Boys’ Brigades across Victoria and Horrie knew that other boys, including his best mate, were being abused as well.
Motivated by his mother falling seriously ill and by the fact that boys in the brigade were taking their own lives, Horrie walked into the local police station when he was 14 and told a policeman what was going on.
‘Get out of my cop shop or I’m going to stick my size 13 boot in your arse’, was the policeman’s response. ‘Men from the Church don't touch little boys’, Horrie was told.
Horrie left school in Year 8, sick of being told who he was and sick of ‘being stood over’. He also had to run the house because his mother was so ill.
When he was 16, he was charged with sexual offences against women. He was granted bail before his trial and, with every good intention, his parents sent him to spend two weeks with James Purdy.
‘Two weeks with him … You can imagine what happened during that two weeks.’ Ironically however, Horrie’s subsequent conviction was the perfect escape from Purdy’s abuse. Purdy backed away from all contact with him, because ‘he didn’t want anything to do with the law’.
After Horrie’s first offence, he was placed under a community based order and given counselling. They picked up on the abuse but assumed his father was the perpetrator. Horrie ‘clammed up’ quickly. He didn’t want his father going to jail for something he hadn’t done. Nor did he want his hot-tempered father killing Purdy and being charged.
He got himself a successful trade but as the years passed he grew more and more angry. He listed his loss of compassion, self-worth, dignity, humanity and respect for authority as impacts of the sexual abuse by James Purdy. He has spent most of his adult life in jail, mostly for sexual offences.
Horrie first disclosed when he was 24, while he was undergoing a sex offenders’ program in prison. He was told the abuse ‘was completely irrelevant as to why I offended’. He’s walked into police stations ‘numerous times’ in his life to report the abuse but was only seen as an offender, not a victim.
Finally, in the early 2000s, Horrie reported the sexual abuse to a policeman who was curious about his constant re-offending. Horrie took a chance and told him. The policeman helped him prepare a statement, then took it from there. Finally he was being listened to. Horrie started to feel less angry.
James Purdy was eventually imprisoned. He was killed in jail. Horrie ‘almost felt guilty’ for his death but at the same time was angry Purdy hadn’t done his jail time.
He believes he’s ‘mellowed a lot’ in the last few years.
‘I’ve held a grudge for so long against people who had nothing to do with what happened to me … coppers, psychs because they won’t listen, lawyers because they think they know better.’
He knows the women he offended against weren’t responsible for his abuse either. ‘I have absolutely destroyed their lives … Part of the reason why I did what I did, was because I wanted somebody else to feel, and to know, what I’d been through.’
Horrie has now completed two sex offenders’ programs in prison. He believes that psychologists usually tell him what to think and feel, rather than listen. ‘And so it becomes very difficult to open up and express how you actually feel … and then actually deal with those issues.’
Horrie believes his life is essentially over. He told his story to the Commission because he believes ‘there are kids out there that deserve a life’.