Joe’s parents travelled all around South Australia and Victoria in the 1960s and 1970s. They stayed for a few years in a small town in Victoria, which is where Joe attended his last year of primary school. The school was tiny. There was only one teacher, James Adinall, and the children were terrified of him.
‘He was a brutal man, just an animal.’ But it was only the boys that Adinall physically tormented. The girls could do no wrong. Joe, who was 11, had never been a trouble maker. In fact he described himself as an introvert, but from day one, Adinall hated him. Joe was beaten at least twice a day for the first fortnight and then once a day after that.
He believes that Adinall derived a sexual sort of pleasure from belting boys on the backside. ‘He was a strange man.’
Things got even stranger on the school camp that year. Adinall recruited an assistant from another school to help him and both men decided the boys had to strip off and run naked between the dormitory and the toilet block. The girls watched but Joe can’t remember if they were made to or were just allowed to.
It happened on both nights of the school camp. But this incident was overshadowed by something else that happened during the camp. Joe stayed on the bus when the other kids went on a nature walk one night. The bus driver, who was waiting with Joe, had been drinking heavily.
He came up behind Joe and started groping him. Then ‘he pulled out a bright, shiny 10 cent piece and put it in my front pocket. They’re the two things that really stand out … I’ve blanked a hell of a lot of it out. I really don’t know what went on’.
Joe was so deeply ashamed that he could tell no one and he kept it to himself for 45 years.
At the time Joe thought he was to blame for being abused by the bus driver. ‘It made me feel unworthy … I felt there must have been a fault there that I had done, to allow that sort of thing to happen.’
He can analyse it and evaluate it logically but emotionally he still feels dirty.
The abuse had another effect as well. ‘It planted a seed of sexual thoughts with children.’ Joe has spent his entire life being tempted to sexually abuse children. For the most part he’s resisted that temptation and was happily married with children of his own. He and his wife had lots of foster kids live with their family without incident.
Then, in his 50s, at a time when he was feeling under a lot of pressure, he sexually abused one of his foster children. Joe is now serving time in jail for that offence. And his marriage is over.
It was when he was being charged that Joe finally started to talk about the sexual abuse from his childhood.
Ten years before he sexually offended, Joe had tried to get help with his feelings. Most of the time they were under control but ‘when I started suffering from really bad depression I went to get some help ... But you simply can’t talk about things’. When he was talking to counsellors he focussed on his depression. He thought that if he could manage the depression he should be ‘pretty right with everything else’.
Joe believes that the mandatory reporting of child abuse is counterproductive. He knows why it exists but for someone like him, who is crying out for help, it means having nobody to talk to ‘and I mean nobody. You can’t talk to your minister or any counsellor that’s accredited or other foster carers’.
He also thinks there should be an amnesty for anyone with sexual thoughts about children so they can get treatment without being labelled.
‘It’s like labelling someone an alcoholic. Say it often enough, if it’s in your mind often enough, that’s what you tend to become … It’s almost like your credentials for life.’