Hugo John's story

Hugo encountered a number of sexual abusers in his childhood. ‘It’s their God they’ve got to answer to.’

When he was six he was wandering through a park looking for cicadas when a young man took him behind a bush and performed oral sex on him.

Shortly after the incident in the park, Hugo saw two teachers, Mr Cahill and Miss Denison, having sex at his Melbourne government school. He didn’t understand what they were doing and later approached Cahill, asking ‘I saw Miss Denison do to you what the young man did to me. What was that?’

Cahill told Hugo to come and see him in his office. When Hugo went there, a visiting educator named Barbara Bader was present. ‘The creature – I won’t call her a person … She physically abused me.’ Bader banged Hugo’s head against the wall and said ‘You’re just a girl’. Cahill tried to masturbate Hugo and threatened him, telling him he wasn’t to say anything or else he would turn into a girl. ‘I was totally humiliated.’

Hugo, now in his 40s, is convinced that if he had reported the abuse to the principal or other senior staff at the time he would have been believed. But he wasn’t able to talk about it at the time. The threats worked, he said.

‘Bloody oath it works. I only reported it four years ago.’

When Hugo was 13 he went on camp with a Church of England youth club. During this trip he was sexually abused by a group of boys who pinned him down and played with his testicles. Hugo reported this to camp leader, Kyle Mason.

‘Bawling my eyes out I went to Kyle Mason who said, “Well, after what you did, you deserve it”. A big cuff on me ear and sent me off.’ Hugo didn’t understand what he was being punished for. He later found out that it was rumoured that boys were being molested under the blankets – and that Hugo was the culprit.

That night, Mason and two other camp leaders, Walker and Jamieson, dragged him out of bed into another hut, which had no other people in it. They fondled Hugo’s penis, digitally penetrated him, and licked his anus.

‘And then I got up and I spat in Walker’s face and he smacked my head into the wall and he said, “If you do that again you little prick … I’ll kill ya”. And then Jamieson goes, “You say anything we’ll get your brother. We’ll get your father. Shut up you little shit and mind your own business”.’

Hugo did shut up. He suppressed all of the abuse and got on with his life. Eventually he learned that Mason had been charged with other child sex offences.

After being invited to a club reunion Hugo had nightmares and woke up screaming. After this he disclosed to his wife and reported the abuse at the camp to the police.

The police investigation didn’t go far due to a lack of evidence. Hugo also reported the matter to the Church, which he found to be a good experience. The Church believed him and provided counselling.

At the time Hugo wasn’t seeking compensation but in more recent years he pursued a settlement from the Church, via a legal service, but was told he was not entitled to anything.

Hugo has also recently reported the abuse that occurred at his primary school as well as in the park, to the police. There was no investigation and he was told there was no chance of a prosecution. He tried to reopen his case against Mason and was disappointed when this was denied despite Mason’s other convictions.

Over the years Hugo got involved with the ‘wrong crowd’ and used marijuana. He goes to counselling now, but this is more ‘common sense’ counselling and not to do with the sexual abuse. He has told his parents about some of the abuse. In general, he’s open about it and encourages others to be open about their experiences too.

‘Most people are fantastic. I’ve been able to tell clients I was abused. People will come forward. My friends know.’ And for all the survivors from the boys’ club, ‘My heart goes out to them’.

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