‘He said, “Get up on the table and lie on your back”.’
Eight-year-old Jerry was at a Church of England boys’ club run in a Melbourne church hall in the early 1960s. He believes he’d been carefully selected for abuse that night. His parents had separated and his mother had just told the two young men who ran the group that she and Jerry would be moving away. This would be his last time with the club.
During some rough play in the church grounds Jerry kicked a friend and brought him down. ‘That was just his opportunity to take me into the room’, Jerry told the Commissioner.
One of the supervisors, a man Jerry remembers as 16 or 17 years old at most, led him into the church kitchen. He climbed onto the table with Jerry and lay on top of him, rubbing himself against the boy. Then he made Jerry roll over and simulated anal sex with the boy.
Jerry climbed off the table. ‘And he said, “Oh you haven’t tucked your shirt in. I’ll do it”. So he’s tucked my shirt in, but started playing with me dick. Then he said, “Righto, get out”. And that was it.’
Jerry believes both men were paedophiles, as he remembers the other leader watching as Jerry was taken into the kitchen alone.
‘I didn’t tell my mother. I didn’t tell anyone at the time.’ Jerry kept the abuse to himself until he was 15, when he confided in a mate. He’d just spotted his abuser in the street, and he blurted out what had happened. ‘At the time I was very violent and I thought, “I can really give it to this arsehole”. But I didn’t.’
The impacts on Jerry’s life have been profound.
‘Well, I just couldn’t trust anybody. I went to a new school and from then on I just rebelled against everybody, anyone. I just wouldn’t do what anyone told me. I just couldn’t trust anybody. And that virtually went on probably to this day. I still don’t trust in people.
‘It’s just something you can never get out of your head when you’re eight years old. You know, eight, nine, 10 – I had it with me, especially when I was younger …
‘I ended up being out of control, being uncontrollable and then got locked up in a boys’ home run by the Uniting Church. There was no sexual abuse there, but you got tortured and terrorised and belted and that.’
Jerry didn’t talk about the abuse until his late 20s, when he finally ‘got it off his chest’ and told some friends. Later in life he was sent to a psychiatrist for several months for help with anger management problems. Jerry doesn’t remember telling the psychiatrist about his childhood abuse, but believes the sessions helped him.
In recent years he has practised self-hypnosis. Though he admits to having frequent angry thoughts about the abuse, Jerry is able to control them with meditation.
Jerry does not wish to contact the police. He has not yet considered a complaint to the Church of England. He does want to make sure that solid Working with Children Checks are enshrined in law.
‘The whole screening process has got to be turned upside down on its head … you’d want five references from family members and friends from them just to get ’em into the job with children.’