Ivankor’s parents emigrated to Melbourne in the late 1960s and became closely involved with the local Orthodox church. He described his father as ‘abusive’ and his mother as a ‘cold, practical’ woman.
In the early 1970s, when Ivankor was two years old, his father died, and the family was left ‘isolated’. His mother ‘struggled’ with day-to-day activities, and believed that she was ‘judged’ by the church community.
When Ivankor was about five, his family moved to Sydney and joined a church of different denomination. They lived on the church premises, but Ivankor was separated from his mother and sister and placed in the ‘male quarters’ as soon as they arrived.
Ivankor described this denomination was one with ‘extreme’ Christian beliefs. All ‘outside influence’ was ‘cut’, and members were discouraged from having any external contacts ‘other than for work’. ‘They live, conduct, believe, are influenced purely from what they interpret from [their] version of the Bible’, Ivankor said.
Ivankor likened the environment to that of a prison. Discipline was harsh, and he was beaten with sticks by the elders ‘nearly every day’. He was called ‘the devil’ when he didn’t respond in the way they expected, and was also exposed to exorcisms.
In the late 1970s, 14-year-old Reginald Foster moved into Ivankor’s dormitory. A son of one of the elders, Foster had been studying overseas. The two quickly became close.
Before long, Foster started to sexually abusing him. ‘It was only me and him. No one else knew about it. It was secretive. It only happened at night-time.’
Because Ivankor had been labelled ‘the devil’, he felt that he had ‘no chance’ of telling anyone about the abuse. He knew that neither his family, nor members of the church community, would believe him. Even though he didn’t quite understand what was happening, each time the abuse occurred Ivankor felt guilty and ashamed. He knew that it was ‘wrong’.
‘With the Church and its teachings, anything to do with the sexes, the body and lust, was constantly rebuked and it was looked upon as wrong … We’ve got, now, this guilt with ourselves.’
A few years later, when Ivankor was almost a teenager, he was sexually abused by his older sister. At the time, he and his family were living together in a small house within the church precinct. Males and females living together was a ‘rare’ thing, and the situation was ‘very temporary’. He didn’t tell anyone about his sister’s behaviour.
The abuse ceased about a year later after Ivankor’s family moved away from the church premises. His mother had become a ‘handful’ because her opinions and personality, and this had caused conflict with other people in the community.
Ivankor liked living away from the church community. As soon as he finished high school, he joined the defence force, and left the Church for good.
In the years that followed, Ivankor didn’t tell anyone about his experiences of abuse. He spent a lot of time ‘blocking out’ memories, and feeling anger and hatred towards his offenders and the Church. The self-hate and guilt he experienced still affects him today.
In the mid-2000s, Ivankor decided to report both his sister and Foster to NSW Police. This was a ‘positive experience’ for him, and at the time of speaking with the Royal Commission, investigations are still underway.
Ivankor has not reported the abuse by Foster to the Church, nor sought compensation, but is considering doing so in the future.
Ivankor’s concern for children still involved with the Church prompted him to disclose his experiences of sexual abuse. He still regards the church community as ‘unsafe’.
‘I’m doing this for the sake of those children. Someone has to come forward.’