At four years of age, Kip was taken from his mother after she hit him over the head and damaged his skull. ‘She’s a lot better person now’, Kip said. ‘She was a bad alcoholic.’ He was sent to live with his father who was ‘a hard man’ and Kip regularly went to school with welts over his legs from being hit with a jug cord.
Mr Travers, principal of the Sydney public school Kip attended, knew about Kip’s home life. When Kip was nine years old, in the mid 1980s, Travers would call him into his office and sexually abuse him. ‘I always remember there was this big picture on his wall of a little kid unhappy’, Kip said. ‘And I always thought kids had to be unhappy. I don’t know, it’s weird.’
Kip said he felt confused because Travers showed him love and affection, but he knew ‘this stuff was wrong’. He ran away and tried to find his mother but was brought back to his father and the sexual abuse at school continued.
‘There’s one other thing you should know’, Kip said. ‘I actually knocked me teeth out with a hammer when I was little. I hit them and knocked them out with a hammer because he said I was biting him and that, if you know what I’m saying.’
Kip’s father and stepmother thought he ‘was crazy’ and couldn’t understand why he’d do such damage to himself, but Kip didn’t feel like he could disclose the abuse. He ran away often and from the age of 10 and throughout his teenage years, lived in boys’ homes and juvenile detention centres.
In the boys’ home he went to at the age of 11, all the staff were ‘weird’, Kip said. At night boys were made to stand naked outside under a light and after they’d been bitten by mosquitoes one of the staff members would rub cream over their genitals under the guise of treating the bites. The same staff member took Kip to a nearby bushland area and sexually abused him there.
Kip ran away from that boys’ home and was picked up by NSW Police and put in one of the local station’s cells. He said it was the first time in his life he’d felt safe. From there he went to a youth refuge and then onto a juvenile detention centre, where he was again sexually abused by a staff member as well as an older inmate.
Kip told the Commissioner he’d been in institutions all his life. He spoke from prison where he was serving an 18 month sentence for driving and drug offences. ‘Driving and taking off. Always running, I always run. I’ve run all me life for some reason. I’m always running. I was involved in an armed robbery. Never no sexual offences or bashing women or hurting old people or kids, none of that stuff, never, ever. Got bashed plenty often but I’m not one of them. You see on TV how they say, “Oh yeah [sexual abuse] happened to them”. How the fuck – sorry to swear – how on earth could they be like that? I can’t work it out meself. I see people on the TV that’s going through that thing in Melbourne and they look normal. I wish I could be normal, look normal.’
Kip said he wouldn’t have thought of talking about the sexual abuse to anyone in jail, but one day he saw the police officer who’d put him in the cells as a 12-year-old. It brought forth a surge of memories about his childhood and he told the officer about being abused by Travers. Soon afterwards, detectives interviewed Kip and took a statement. He found them very respectful and said the matter was still under investigation.
One of the effects of the abuse for Kip, he said, was that he’d always avoided physical closeness with his children. ‘My kids, I couldn’t even put them in a bath. I could never change them, ’cause I didn’t know, you know what I mean? It’s fucked up, man.’
He was hoping to get onto a drug rehabilitation program while he was in jail. The program was only available for inmates serving more than 18 months and there was a waiting list so he wasn’t sure if he’d be accepted to do it. He wanted to though, for the sake of his partner as well as himself and his children.
‘It’s a bit stressful on her and I don’t know, I had to deal with all this stuff, get rid of me demons or whatever you call them … I’ve taken a lot of drugs. I’m worthless to anyone unless I fix it so I’m trying to go to that program and you have to have over 18 months, so [the magistrate] gave me 18 months and one day, so I can do it. It’s not a sure thing. I’ve got to hope. It’s to help you live outside without drugs and that.
‘I don’t want to die in jail, you know … I’ve done a lifetime in jail. I’ve done a lifetime in every home. I am over this revolving door. I just hope this helps prevent it from others ever happening or do you know like, maybe if it – I don’t know – hopefully they can look out, for one, that Travers is not still a teacher. I don’t think he would be, eh? I still think I’m like a kid and then I feel like, fuck, and then I realise, far out. I’m nearly 40 years old.’