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Kevin Lee's story

When Kevin was four years old his parents separated, and he and his siblings went to live with his father in the New South Wales Hunter region. His dad was a formidable character, and feared in the community. Nobody dared question his actions, not even his extreme physical abuse of his kids.

‘As bad as any kid anywhere has been physically abused by their parents, that’s how all of us boys were. Dad didn’t touch us sexually or anything like that, but I mean, we were flogged within an inch of our lives, for you know, not brushing our teeth ... As a young kid, that’s your dad, you didn’t really understand why he was doing it, but you sort of went along with it, even did things to make him happy.’

The Department of Community Services (DOCS) became involved with the family after Kevin’s older brother ran away. Kevin was around 14 at the time, and his dad would take the remaining kids to the DOCS offices when required.

They would sometimes speak to DOCS workers on their own. Afterwards their father would interrogate them about what they had discussed, flogging them and wanting a word for word account of what they had said. Because of this, they didn’t disclose to the workers what he was doing to them.

When Kevin was 16, he left home and asked DOCS for help. ‘To leave your brother at the house, and leave your family, even though you’re assaulted like that ... Leaving your home, to an unknown world. I had to be pretty fucked up. I was hurting real bad.’

Kevin told them what his father was doing to him. ‘It was like, well you were given the opportunity to say this, and you lied ... That’s what I got at 16, you know, and I kept having to prove myself.’

He immediately realised there was ‘something creepy’ about the way his DOCS caseworker, Gino Fontana, interacted with him. ‘He’d cuddle me at a time when I didn’t think I needed a cuddle ... comforting, holding my hand, this and that.’

Kevin went to live in a kind of boarding house or hostel for kids, and Fontana would take him out for ice cream. ‘Although my dad hurt me physically, he didn’t do to me what this bloke made me feel like.’

When they were alone, Fontana ‘would put his hands down my pants and touch my penis’ and ‘be all over me’, kissing Kevin and ‘breathing on me, holding me tight’, and engaging him in oral sex.

Although Kevin would allow Fontana to do sexual things to him, he would not reciprocate. ‘It was like okay, he was happy with that. It didn’t really hurt me the way I would think doing it to him would hurt me.’

This abuse continued for around three months, happening in the office or Fontana’s car.

‘I can see the excitement on his face, that we were alone, and that he could do the things he could do because we were alone. And I think that if there was another person there, he wouldn’t have done it.’

Despite the way the abuse made him feel, Kevin felt sad for Fontana. ‘I felt sorry for this bloke. To know what he was doing, to a kid, at my age’. There were times when he wanted to lash out at Fontana, but ‘I was thinking more about him than myself’.

Kevin has never told DOCS or the police about Fontana, or applied for compensation, and doesn’t care about doing so now. The only person he ever told was his little brother, after he’d been taken into care, out of fear that Fontana may try to abuse him too.

He isn’t concerned with what happened to him really, only that Fontana may be abusing other kids.

‘You know what I’d love. No claim or anything, I’d just love to look into his life, to see what he’s doing, and if he’s still doing that, and if he’s still doing it to kids. That’s all I’d want to know ... I don’t want anything, I don’t want no claim, I don’t want no police ....

‘I just want to know if he’s still doing it, you know what I mean. ‘Cause no shit, I would find out where he lived, hunt him down, and bash the living fuck out of him.’

Following the abuse Kevin used drugs for a while and got involved in crime. These days he prays and works out instead. He has been incarcerated a number of times, and spoke to the Commissioner from jail.

In fact, it wasn’t until the Royal Commission visited the centre he was in that he decided to disclose his abuse at all. Other than his younger brother, ‘I hadn’t told anyone, not one person’, not even his partner or kids.

He felt the first Commission officer he spoke to ‘was just polite, and decent’. ‘Just the way he asked me, I thought well ... I had something to say.’

Kevin realises that talking about the abuse now ‘has created negative effects, but nothing I can’t handle’, but does not want to engage in any counselling while in prison. ‘I don’t want to start opening that up and dealing with it where I am.’

For now, he intends to cope the same way he always has. ‘It’s the sort of thing that to deal with you have to turn it off, and just sort of forget about it and pretend it didn’t happen ... Right now, I just feel like screaming out and crying, but there’s no one here to make me feel better, so I’ll just bottle it all and keep it to myself.’

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