Kyle was five years old when his dad left his mum. She was young, and couldn’t cope with looking after the children on her own, so Kyle and his siblings were placed into care. They were never made wards of the state, but spent time living in various facilities.
In the mid-1970s, Kyle was eight and living in a Church of England children’s home in Sydney’s suburbs. During the Christmas holidays one year he was taken out of the home by a ‘holiday host’ family, whose names he cannot recall, for a vacation in a caravan park interstate.
The host father sexually abused both Kyle and his own son, who was around the same age as Kyle, during this trip. He would take them into the shower cubicles and perform oral sex on Kyle, then make Kyle fellate him. Then he would do the same thing to his son while Kyle watched on.
The second time this happened, Kyle refused to fellate the host father, who then rubbed himself on Kyle until he ejaculated. He said that Kyle should keep the abuse secret. Being in another state, Kyle didn’t know the numbers to call to reach his parents, or his house parents at the children’s home.
When the family dropped Kyle back at his mother’s, where he was spending some of his holiday, they asked him to go away with them again.
‘I just blatantly went, no. My mother said, why? And I said, I just don’t want to. And I didn’t say anything. But I could look at the boy. And I remember the boy looking at me, more or less, please don’t leave me here.’
In his mid-teens Kyle became homeless, and was living on the streets. There he met a man who told him ‘it doesn’t matter how bad today is, tomorrow’s a different day’. This is advice that he still carries with him.
Around 10 years after the abuse, Kyle finally told his sister what had happened. He used cannabis heavily for three decades, contemplated suicide, and ‘I still have an authority problem’.
Kyle hasn’t accessed a lot of counselling, even those his partner often suggests it, as he doesn’t find this kind of therapy very beneficial. ‘I go to them open-minded, when I have gone to them and so forth. But I sit there and go, I’m paying $80-110 an hour to listen to crap that I’ve heard over and over again.’
It has been difficult for Kyle to show affection to his children. His partner points this out to him:
‘It’s obviously your upbringing ... You protect the children, you do everything for the children, but very hard to show love to the children.
‘And I go, well, that’s true. But I teach them survival. If I could teach them how to feed themselves, if I teach them how to swim. If I could teach them to do this, that, and the other, they will survive. Your nurturing will give them the loving, which hopefully will give them the balance that they need, that they thrive.’
A very talented athlete as a child, Kyle wonders how different his life may have turned out ‘if I’d had a nice upbringing, and money there and all those things ... But shit happens, and you make the most of what you’ve got’.
He finds it hard to isolate the impacts of the sexual abuse from those associated with his other childhood experiences. ‘It’s neither here nor there – it’s probably the whole upbringing.’
In the early 2000s Kyle made a police report, but it appears no action was ever taken. After a few years of making contact, and several changes in the relevant police officers, he gave up on the matter. He feels that police didn’t have time to follow it up because of being understaffed, and if it is historical they concentrated on more recent matters before them.
Kyle recently received a moderate amount of compensation for physical and emotional abuse he experienced in a different home, which was run by the Uniting Church. He lost around a third of this payment in legal fees and costs.
He has attempted to take civil legal action regarding the sexual abuse by the holiday host, but has been stymied in his efforts. There has been some debate regarding who was responsible for that home at the time the abuse occurred, and hence should be held responsible for his care there.
The current general manager also made it very difficult for him to access his records from this period. Although the files were eventually handed over, it seems that a lot of the contents were removed before he received them.
Kyle now feels that there are too many obstacles in the way of him making a claim for compensation – it would be very hard to prove the abuse in court, and his legal costs would be prohibitive.
Still, he worries that the man’s son would not have been able to escape the abuse, and that he may have gone to abuse other children. ‘If he had access to me, how many other kids has had he had access to? And that’s why I’ve been trying, not necessarily for compensation, but to find out this guy’s name.’