Growing up, Kendall was ‘bright, happy, liked sports and swimming, and into surfing’. He joined a Sydney surf club in the late 1970s, when he was 10 years old. A couple of years later, older boys at the club started bullying him. The main protagonist was Adrian Trent, the son of the club’s president.
These boys would call Kendall names and push him around. One time they made him sing a nursery rhyme in front of everyone. Even though this was humiliating, he did so for fear of being bashed. Despite the bullying, Kendall continued attending the club, as he liked to be part of the club’s activities.
When he was 15 he returned home from the club with a broken nose, after having been cornered by Trent. ‘I tried to get away, and I slipped’. His mother was very upset about his injury. He told her it was an accident.
Three months later Trent and another boy dragged him into the club’s showers. Trent pulled Kendall down, and sat on him while the shower was running. He took his swimming costumes off and positioned himself so that his anus was over Kendall’s nose, and 'then he tried to put faeces down my throat'. The other boy kept lookout during this assault.
Kendall was screaming, telling Trent to get off him, and choking from water running into his mouth. Nobody came to his aid. Trent told him he deserved what was happening.
After five minutes of Trent sitting on him, Kendall was struggling hard to breathe, and started turning blue. The other boy noticed this, and told Trent to get off him. Kendall then blanked out, and woke to Trent giving him CPR.
Kendall doesn’t know how long he was unconscious, but was extremely distraught. He believes he may have suffered a brain injury as a result of being without oxygen. ‘I was pretty deeply disturbed after that. I didn’t know what to do about it.’
A second incident occurred after another few months. Kendall was walking home, and was approached by a number of boys from the club, including Trent. They all grabbed Kendall, and tied him to a telephone pole. They ripped his clothing off him, removing some skin the process.
Kendall was completely naked and felt humiliated. ‘They started hitting me with sticks, on the penis, and then shoving things up my bum.’ The boys rubbed petroleum jelly on him and called him a ‘wanker’, stole his bag, and went back to the club.
Eventually somebody came along and untied Kendall, and he ran back to the club begging for the return of his bag. This contained his house keys, and he was anxious the boys should not have access to his home. Trent threw the bag at Kendall.
This was the last incident of sexual assault, but other abuse continued until Kendall left the club. ‘I used to have to sit in the cubicles and wait for people to punch me. They’d line up.’ He thinks other young people were being abused in the club, ‘but not to that extent’.
Kendall started using drugs, struggled academically, and left school in Year 10 to work in the family business. The changes in his behaviour distressed his mother, who eventually had a breakdown.
‘You used to be such a nice boy. What happened to you? My behaviour got aggressive, violent, I pushed her away, I wouldn’t kiss her. I wouldn’t go anywhere near her.’
His sister blamed him directly for his mother’s mental ill health. After his mother died, the family unit fell apart. He never told his parents about the sexual abuse he had experienced.
When Kendall was in his early 20s, his father sat him down and told him to stop using drugs before he ruined his life, and he quit. He has lived with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for many years, and has had periods of voluntary admission to psychiatric facilities. ‘Sometimes I’d ride the train for two weeks, and didn’t know where I was going.’
Having a very low self-esteem has heavily impacted on his relationships. ‘People actually think you’re very strange, your behaviour.’ He has spent thousands of dollars on counselling, support groups, and alternative therapies, but continues to struggle and suffer from the impacts of the abuse.
Kendall spoke to the Royal Commission about the difficulties of paying for counselling and also taking time off work to access therapy. He pointed out that going through therapy is often exhausting in itself, and can require a significant time to recover from. When he was attending a men’s group once a week, all he could do was ‘go home, eat, sleep, swim, and watch TV. And that was it. I probably wasn’t functioning’.
In the early 2000s Kendall reported the abuse to police. He made a statement, but believes the detective did nothing to investigate. He complained to the Attorney General about the police’s apparent inaction, but did not receive any assistance. Kendall sent copies of his police statement to the club, and the local council, but never received a response.
Kendall eventually confronted Trent one day at the beach, asking why he had assaulted him. Trent told him ‘I can’t recall ... Just piss off and go for a surf’.