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Kody's story

Prior to arriving at base camp in his mid-teens, Kody heard rumours about relationships between trainee recruits and line officers. He heard that some trainees and officers covered these up because they didn’t want to ruin their careers. Kody’s parents had been in the defence force, and he was keen to follow in their footsteps, so he swore that he would not go down that road.

Shortly after his arrival, Kody was introduced to his line officer Carl Ericson. Ericson taught Kody and several other recruits, and also had regular barbeques and parties for the trainees at his house. Kody thought Ericson was a great role model, and wanted to approach his work in the same way that Ericson did.

When Kody discovered that Ericson was gay, he warmed to him even more. Kody was gay too, but hadn’t yet told his parents, so he hoped that Ericson would give him guidance on coming out to his parents and managing his sexuality within the force.

After a while, Ericson began to send Kody inappropriate messages on his phone and social media. Weeks later, Ericson invited Kody off-base to his house, and asked him to wear a uniform different to his usual trainee one. Kody believes this was to prevent Ericson’s seniors from asking questions.

At the house, Ericson offered Kody alcohol, which he refused. He then sexually assaulted him, ignoring Kody’s pleas to stop. One of Ericson’s work friends walked in and witnessed the abuse.

Back at base the next day, Kody reported the abuse to his warrant officer. It was a partial disclosure because he wanted to be the one to tell his parents what had happened, and to tell them about his sexuality, without the defence force interfering.

The warrant officer didn’t respond directly to Kody’s complaint, but four days after disclosing, he was interviewed by defence force police who told him that they would inquire into his allegation. However, Kody was later advised that he would be charged with leaving base, and with being involved in an inappropriate relationship with Ericson. He was upset that they were blaming him for the abuse.

Kody emphasised that he didn’t want to have sex with Ericson. ‘They were trying to drag out the process, and ask questions to try and relate it back to me doing the wrong thing, rather than trying to find out the bigger picture.’

Kody’s case was then referred to the police. He gave them a statement, but did not hear back from them for a while, which was unsettling. His parents first learned about their son’s sexual orientation when the police informed them of the investigation. Kody was devastated that his requests had been ignored, and that he couldn’t tell his parents himself.

Throughout the investigation, Kody had to face Ericson every day, which was extremely difficult. He couldn’t understand how Ericson could continue to be his instructor, and wasn’t moved to a different base. The bullying and harassment he received from Ericson and others was relentless.

After six months, Kody was moved to a base in a different state, but the bullying followed him. Some of the cadets who were close to Ericson singled him out, and his new line officers often overlooked him for assignments. After reporting this to his senior officer, he was called into a meeting with his superiors, and later, moved to another base in another town.

Kody has been diagnosed with anxiety, and has avoided going back to his original base because of the bullying he received. He was not offered counselling by the defence force. He did not hear back from the police and assumed that his case had been dropped.

Kody often has nightmares and intense flashbacks of the abuse, and understands that the abuse has affected his intimate relationships. ‘That’s why my previous relationship broke down. He wanted me to let it go, but I can’t’, Kody said.

Two years prior to his private session with the Royal Commission, Kody was contacted by the police and told that Ericson had been charged with the sexual abuse of a minor. He explained that a few others had been abused by Ericson, but defence had responded by monitoring him rather than taking any action.

‘I don’t blame defence for what actually took place … because each person is their own individual. However, they were aware that he’d previously done it to other trainees before myself and they didn’t action that.’

Ericson was eventually discharged from the defence force, and will soon stand trial. Kody gave evidence at Ericson’s committal hearing, and hopes that Ericson will be brought to justice, and that defence will look into the way it responds to complaints about abuse.

With the assistance of the defence force, Kody discovered that the records of his conversations with his seniors have been deleted. He is nevertheless pursuing a compensation claim against the Defence Force which will go ahead once the outcome of Ericson’s trial has been finalised.

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