Kent Anthony never met his biological parents, and was adopted as a toddler in the mid 1950s. ‘My mother's only sin is that she was poor and no one would help her. She never forgot me. She wrote to the Family Court years later to enquire about me.’
There was a great deal of physical and emotional violence in his adoptive home, and he recalls both of his adoptive parents beating him viciously. He learned later that his adoptive dad had a criminal record.
When Kent was 10, ‘I was made a ward of the state as an uncontrollable child’. He was eventually sent to a Salvation Army boys’ home in Melbourne’s suburbs, staying there for two years.
Major Edward Forman, his dormitory master, began raping him on a regular basis when he was 12. ‘He got into my bed in the middle of the night, placing his hands over my mouth, and he raped me ... I remember it happening over and over again.
‘I didn't know anything about sex at the time. I couldn't comprehend exactly what was happening. My bed was next to his room and I've often wondered if this wasn't by accident.’
Another man also sexually abused him one time. ‘He got me to take my shorts down and touch my private parts. He asked me, "Do I play with myself?"’
Conditions at the home were generally poor. ‘The government paid very good money to the Salvation Army to feed and clothe us. That money wasn't used for that purpose and that needs to be explored ... I climbed a fence and stole apples from an orchard for the exact same reason, I was starving.’
Kent left the home when he was 14, after four years in care, and was returned to his adoptive parents. ‘I remember the day they turned up and took me to their place. I had no contact with them for years and I didn't recognise them or even know who they were. They took me home that day. A very strange event in my life.’
Things were turbulent in his family home, and he moved between a hostel and boarding houses. As Kent wasn’t doing well at school he was sent to do an apprenticeship. Around this time he found out he was adopted, when his mother told other people. ‘I said, “I didn't know that”, and she insisted that I knew all along, which I didn't.’
Kent overdosed on pills in his mid-teens, when he was still a state ward. ‘I have been told that my heart stopped seven times. It must have been quite a serious attempt to end my life.’
He met his first girlfriend, also a state ward. They moved in together with their social worker’s permission, and had children.
They separated, and he later found out his ex-partner’s new boyfriend had sexually abused their children. The children had been state wards and in care, and this abuse had happened on weekend visits.
When Kent was in his 40s, he and his brother watched a film about a child being sexually abused, and this prompted him to disclose the abuse in the home. ‘It was the first time I'd ever told anyone. I've lived with this for decades, with this secret and self-guilt.’
Kent tried to report the sexual abuse to police in the early 1990s. ‘They weren't interested. They wouldn't even take a statement.’
Around this time he spoke to a lady who had worked at the boys’ home. She said Forman had been moved interstate, and was later jailed for child sex offences in another Salvation Army home.
When he confronted the Salvation Army major who had been in charge of the home he was in, ‘he told me that I should pray. He denied that he had any knowledge of what had happened’.
In the mid 1990s Kent gave evidence to a state committee ‘into sexual offences against children and adults’. He told them that child sex offenders should be placed on a national register, or ‘they needed to tattoo “paedophile” across their foreheads’.
After this committee Kent was contacted by police. ‘Detectives, I think, were directed after the inquiry to re-investigate my complaint. They took a police statement.’ He told them what he had heard about Forman’s interstate move and conviction, but they said they were unable to locate him.
Kent also provided information to a recent state parliamentary inquiry. Since then, he has been contacted by a different police taskforce, and was told they may have found Forman. He is angry that this happened using ‘the same information I gave 20 years ago. They could have caught this bloke 20 years ago’.
The impacts of the abuse Kent experienced continue to affect his life greatly. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, lived on the streets and in cars, and is on a disability pension. He has contacted a sexual assault centre, and received some counselling.
‘I don't trust people. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I have a lot of problems dealing with government departments and only deal with them when I have to. I've had trouble with relationship and anger management issues. I've had various drug and alcohol problems. I've never been able to hold a job down for long.
‘I've lived a scattered life. I hoard things, I forget things. I used to live a very violent life. But now I'm just angry about politicians for failing to change laws to protect children.’
He has taken civil legal action twice, and received compensation each time. The first was in a class action against the Salvation Army, and the second against the Victorian government. He felt obliged to take the settlement offered in the class action, as if he did not agree to the amount offered everyone else would miss out.
Kent has now ‘spoken out quite publicly’ about the abuse. ‘I don't want anything hidden any more, I lived in the shade for decades.’ He is an active campaigner for the prevention of child sexual abuse, and for better support of survivors, and believes there is a need for a national approach to these issues.
‘You have all those different states with different laws. There need to be federal child protection laws put in place that override the states.’