Jock didn’t really want to come forward with his story to the Royal Commission. It was only at the urging of his wife that he agreed to do so.
He told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t talk a lot. I try not to’.
Jock has preferred to keep things locked up and get on with life. But his experiences have had a lasting impact on him.
From the ages of 18 months to 12 years, Jock lived at a children’s home in regional Victoria run by the Salvation Army. His sisters lived in the home with him too. When he was about 12, Joanne Harris, one of the female carers at the home, regularly went into Jock’s room and had sex with him.
Jock said that at the time he didn’t feel like he was being abused because Harris gave him privileges and advantages that the other children didn’t have.
‘As a kid I thought I was using it to my advantage to get what the others weren’t getting. I got away with things because it was pretty strict, with a lot of kids in the one place, so I could get my way … But I wouldn’t want that for my kids.’
Harris was, to his knowledge, an unmarried woman, who would have been in her 20s or 30s at the time, and he thought the abuse happened on nights when she was rostered on and the other carers had days off.
Children were very controlled in the home, with threats of discipline and actual physical punishment for bad behaviour, and a lack of warmth shown towards them.
‘There was no family feeling around the place. You knew you were there to be looked after and that was it. There was no loving at all … except for what happened there, but I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.’
Jock said Harris kept her behaviour secret and he didn’t tell anyone, but others, including his sisters, seemed to know. ‘They knew something was happening but I don’t know who fully knew’, he said. A friend from that time, who he has kept in contact with, told him ‘they all knew something was going on’, but he and the friend don’t talk about it now.
Jock left the home at about age 12, when he was fostered out to a caring couple, who he still calls Mum and Dad.
He recently found out that his foster mum discovered some letters Harris had written to him, which Jock had kept. His mum took the letters to the matron at the home and reported the abuse but the matron just brushed her off.
He said his mum has told him she feels very bad about the way she responded at the time. ‘Mum said she sort of didn’t follow it up right and she shouldn’t have let the letters go. ‘Cause it was basically just pushed under the carpet.’
‘Now it’s all gone by the wayside’, he said.
Jock found out that Harris had moved from the home where the abuse had taken place to another home in Victoria, but he doesn’t know if she was sacked or simply moved on.
As an adult, Jock has had a series of relationships and marriages that have fallen apart and he said he has trouble dealing with his feelings.
‘I don’t get close,’ he said. ‘I’ve never been a real close person, even with the kids. I’ve never been a doting father, grandparent and what have you … I feel I’ve let them down.’
Jock became very upset when talking about his emotional life.
He told the Commissioner, ‘I wouldn’t like that to happen to other kids. It’s just not the right thing. It messes with your head a bit over the years … I just wouldn’t like it to happen again’.
Jock had not accessed any counselling services, nor reported the abuse to the Salvation Army or the police. ‘I think it’s too far gone to be making a big deal of it. I’d hate to see someone going to jail at that age anyhow,’ he said, referring to Harris, who would now be in her 70s or 80s.
He also still has some good feelings towards the Salvation Army, despite what happened to him.
‘They’ve taken me in and looked after me when I could have been turned out in the street. I look at it that way. I try and look at the good side of it, of what they’ve done. Things were a bit rough when you were young but you’ve got to take that, you know. There were some good people and some bad people.’