‘My life was one that consisted of a lot of abuse … My father would beat me in a way that is unexplainable. I’d be left with fat lips, blood noses, black eyes … I was told that basically I was an uncontrollable child.’
Hunter said his mother was responsible for a lot of the beatings. She’d claim that he’d been misbehaving, and his father would physically abuse him. Hunter never saw his father raise a hand against his mother or sisters.
‘I believe that my mother hated me. I was openly rejected by my mother.’ Hunter remembered her locking him in a wardrobe, throwing him down a flight of stairs and fracturing his skull with a cricket bat. He was not yet eight years old.
When Hunter was born in South Australia in the late 1960s, his father was almost 50, much older than his mother. Hunter later learned that his mother had been repeatedly raped by her own father and had a deep loathing of men. Hunter believes the age difference may have revived memories of the abuse, and because he was the only son, Hunter became her target.
When he was eight, his mother left with his sisters. Hunter remembered standing outside the house in his pyjamas asking ‘What about me?’ and his mother saying, ‘You’re a mongrel bastard. You’re your father’s obligation’.
Soon after, a man by the name of Ronald came to live with them, ostensibly to look after Hunter because his father was often away on business. Hunter was first sexually abused by Ronald around the age of nine. ‘Back then I just didn’t know what was happening or why it was happening. Is this normal, is it my fault, am I doing this, am I bringing it on?’
Hunter recalled once threatening to tell his father about the abuse. Right in front of him, Ronald slashed his wrists and covered Hunter in blood. The abuse would continue for years, until Hunter was in his early teens and ‘big enough to punch my way out of it’.
At first, Hunter ran away from home, sometimes breaking into houses to get food. He was put into a youth detention centre in Queensland but Ronald would visit, even sexually abusing him in front of the staff and other visitors. If Hunter ever talked about reporting him, Ronald would again threaten to kill himself. Hunter said Ronald ‘had a control over me like you wouldn’t believe’.
At one point the head of the detention centre told Hunter’s father that there were suspicions about Ronald. ‘My father said, “If you continue with your investigation I’ll sue you for slander”. So they stopped.’ And the abuse continued. Hunter has since seen a staff report which described him as being homosexual and in a relationship with Ronald. At the time, Hunter was 12.
He was also sexually abused by other boys in the centre. ‘The things that happened to me in there. I was hated by the other kids, I was hated by the staff. Whenever I went to the staff I would just be put down as a crawler. They didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say.’
But no matter how bad the detention centre got for Hunter, it was better than going home. ‘Because it wasn’t the total abuse. Although the sexual things were still happening with the kids, I wasn’t getting beaten up, I wasn’t getting manipulated or bled on or all these things that were happening there. It was the lesser of the two evils. And then they threw me back into it.’
Even though the authorities knew Ronald was still living there, Hunter was released into his father’s care. He was sexually abused for another year until one day, when he had ‘a fit of rage’. When Ronald came after him, Hunter started throwing punches. ‘My dad tried to hold me and I remember just screaming at him, “You’ve got no idea what’s going on”. But he did. He knew all along.’ Hunter’s father threw him out.
Hunter travelled around for a while, frightened that he’d bump into someone from the detention centre. ‘I ran away from the way people thought of me.’ He ended up having to work as a prostitute to survive. ‘It was a means to an end. It was the only thing that I knew that I had. I was young, I was a boy, I was a kid.’
After a couple of years, Hunter got a job and was able to leave that life. But the impact of almost a decade of abuse was taking its toll. ‘I turned into a pretty nasty person.’ He was drinking heavily, taking drugs and always fighting. ‘Anybody that ever tried to stand over me in any way I would just fight. I’d put up this hard exterior that you will never get near me. And the harder I fought the less people wanted to come near me.’
Hunter got into ‘massive amounts’ of trouble with the law and spent time in prison. He’s struggled with severe anxiety and depression. But he’s also become a father and is doing all he can to have a normal relationship with his children.
The question that haunts Hunter is, how could something like this happen to a child? ‘I never did anything wrong. I was getting abused, I ran away from home to get away from it, I broke into a few houses … like my crimes weren’t bad, I never hurt anybody, I never did anything to anybody else. All I did was wanted to eat, and stay away from where I was being hurt.’
‘I blame the system 100 per cent. They had a duty to make sure I was safe.’
‘I just want to know why they didn’t protect me.’