When Lachlan became a father he vowed that his kids would never have to experience the same problems that he did. He didn’t know how he was going to achieve this goal, never having had any role models for good parenting behaviour himself. He decided that there was only one reliable strategy.
‘I thought, if I do exactly the opposite of what was done with me then that must be right.’
Born in regional Victoria in the early 1970s, Lachlan endured an ‘aggressive, violent and deprived childhood’. The perpetrator of this violence was his mother. On a typical day ‘something would happen in the household, I did something wrong, I’d get a beating from my mother. My father would get home, she’d say, “This has happened, can you deal with it?”’
Lachlan would then cop a beating from his dad too, though never as brutal as what he got from his mum.
By age 11, Lachlan started fighting back. As a result he was classed as ‘uncontrollable’, removed from his family and lodged in the secure unit of a government-run boys’ home. He remembers waking up in his cell that first morning and seeing the bars, thinking, ‘My world has ended’.
Within days he was singled out by an older boy named Tom Walker. Walker imposed a ‘trade off’ on Lachlan: he would protect him from the other boys if Lachlan participated in certain sex acts. ‘The nature of the acts’, Lachlan said, ‘was mutual masturbation’.
A few weeks later Walker left the secure unit. A few weeks after that Lachlan was released to the main unit, where he found Walker waiting for him.
‘Mutual masturbation continued. And then he anally tried to have sex with me, and his words at that point, which I do remember to this day: “This is what my father used to do to me”.’
Lachlan is sure that the staff knew what was going on, and simply stood back and let it happen. Alone and unsupported, he did his best to fend off Walker for the next few months until, finally, he was released from the home into the custody of his maternal grandparents.
‘I loved the experience of going to live with my grandparents. I was extremely close to them. But when I went to school, in New South Wales, I was so maladaptive in how I formed – or could not form – relationships with my peers. It just was so bizarrely uncomfortable, and I just never coped.’
Lachlan’s discomfort with his peers was exacerbated by the confusion he felt about his sexuality. Though he was ‘hyper-sexualised’, he didn’t know whether he was gay or straight. He spent many nights trying to puzzle the problem out, and by his early 20s he reached an answer.
‘I sort of worked out my sexuality that I wanted to marry a woman, have children and pursue a heterosexual relationship.’
Which is exactly what he did. By the time he was married, however, Lachlan’s attitude to sex had changed. He was no longer ‘hyper-sexualised’. In fact, he was no longer interested in sex at all.
‘It’s not an important facet of my life. It’s something that I don’t particularly enjoy, whether it be with males or females I just don’t enjoy sex, and I think that’s lagging from what happened with the abuse.’
Lachlan’s marriage became strained and eventually ended in divorce. Still, he and his ex-wife have maintained an amicable relationship. This is in part due to Lachlan’s determination to give his kids a happy, healthy upbringing, free from ‘transgenerational issues’.
Sadly, no matter how hard he tried, Lachlan could not completely isolate his kids from the flow-on effects of his own horrific childhood. ‘The really disappointing, depressing part of the whole thing is … there are issues in the new generation.’
He tries not to let this weigh him down.
‘I always describe my personality as being pragmatic but optimistic at the same time. And I don’t like to hold regrets. You can’t change the past, all you can do is influence the future.’