In the 1940s, Keith belonged to the Church of England Boys Society (CEBS) in his New South Wales town. The curate, Mr Griffin, was in charge and ‘ran the whole show’. Keith was nine years old when Griffin first sexually abused him. Keith was at the regular weekly CEBS meeting when Griffin told him to go into the vestry. Once there Keith was told to take his clothes off. ‘He started to fondle me. I had a bit of an erection. Then he proceeded to masturbate.’
Keith told the Commissioner the abuse continued at least twice a week for 18 months. He didn’t tell his family because he was ashamed and embarrassed. Griffin would often be at his home, ‘invited and uninvited’, and was held in high regard by Keith’s deeply religious parents.
In addition to the vestry, Griffin abused Keith in the church. They were seen one day by the minister, who Keith was sure knew what was going on.
Keith said he couldn’t understand why he didn’t stop going to see Griffin.
‘I don’t know what power he had over me.’
He recognises now that Griffin was grooming not only him, but his parents, through the continued and unannounced visits. The abuse stopped when one day Keith feigned illness at the time of one of Griffin’s visits.
Keith said he was in bed when Griffin came into the room and put his hands under the bed covers. ‘I brought my arm down really hard on his hand. He stopped and that was the last of it.’
Keith went to the Anglican Church in the early 1990s to report Griffin’s abuse after he was encouraged to do so by a support agency. He was drinking heavily and receiving counselling for stress and anxiety. Keith said he was fobbed off by the Church and went back into his shell.
Then in the early 2000s, Keith approached the Church again. The issue of child sexual abuse had surfaced in media reports and Keith thought he should take some action. He spoke to a Church legal representative who offered him counselling; however Keith didn’t take up the offer. ‘I was more concerned to find out if he was still alive. I wanted to have some finality.’ He was told Griffin had left the Anglican Church to become a Catholic priest, and that he’d died in the late 1990s.
When Keith told his sons about the abuse, one of them said, ‘That’s why we didn’t have a father’. It was a matter of great sadness to Keith that he’d neglected his children and wife for so many years.
His son told the Commissioner, ‘It’s not easy growing up as a kid in this situation. It has its knock-on effects’.