One afternoon in the 1990s, Julianne’s son, Brett, was involved in a fight coming home from school. Julianne contacted the police, and it was to the police officer that Brett divulged he had been abused by his scout leader for nearly two years. Julianne doesn’t recall what the fight with the other student was about. Their life had now taken a different turn.
‘I had often talked about protective behaviours with all my children. And why didn’t Brett feel able to tell me about it? But then that’s the “won’t”, “can’t”.’ Julianne knows that often kids just don’t disclose.
‘I could see the signs in my son. I knew something was not right and he wouldn’t tell me.’
The scout leader, Hugh Gough, groomed Brett who has a borderline intellectual disability, making him immature and vulnerable for his age. Gough provided him with pornographic magazines and invited him over to his place. He also took small groups of boys on scout camps where, Julianne found out after the fact, he was the only adult.
‘I have felt a great sense of guilt. Why didn’t I know about this earlier?’ Brett still hasn’t spoken about the abuse to his mother. She only knows what happened from reading his police statement.
Gough admitted to the crimes, which meant Julianne and her family didn’t need to appear in court. Other boys came forward with allegations and Gough served a prison sentence. After the court case Brett’s behaviour became very erratic. He had outbursts and temper tantrums.
Julianne believes that Brett’s disability combined with the sexual abuse is why he is unable to form relationships now as an adult. She’s also aware that Gough has re-established contact with her son, who is in scant contact with her these days.
But Gough had caused even more destruction in Julianne’s family. Her older son, Grant, suicided when he was in his 30s – years after the court case in relation to his younger brother’s abuse. Julianne has recently been told that Gough sexually abused Grant as a child as well. Back then, Julianne had heard of some of the weird things Gough got up to.
‘He’d danced around in the nude at scout camps and things like that. So that was all I thought it was … but wondered if there’d been more. And I now know that there was more.’
She didn’t report her suspicions at the time to the Scouts or any other authority. In hindsight she thinks she probably should have. ‘Because I didn’t have the evidence, to go and make an allegation about somebody … they would go, “Oh yeah, right. Are you for real?”’
Also, Grant’s behaviour didn’t seem to change at the time of the abuse. He had a larrikin personality and he remained that way. After his death, Julianne found out from Grant’s partner that he would go out to the shed at night and drink and smoke marijuana. When that relationship ended, the ‘wheels fell off’ for Grant.
‘He was often very depressed … There were times that I had gone out to his place wondering if I’d find him alive.’
To help her surviving son who is unable to work, Julianne believes he needs a case manager. However, his disability isn’t considered severe enough to access services. As for Julianne herself, she’s been to counselling but rarely finds it worthwhile.
‘I’m still yet to find somebody, like a good counsellor. I’ve been to counsellors now - I hate it. I’ve only ever been to one counsellor in my life that has been useful. The rest of them, I feel like I’ve been through the mill and come out of it feeling 10 times worse.’