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Larry Peter's story

Larry’s parents divorced when he was about six, in the late 1970s. Larry stayed living with his mother in an outer suburb of Brisbane. One day Larry’s mother had an accident, causing an injury that required surgery. Complications during surgery left her unable to work, in constant pain and, eventually, addicted to opioid painkillers. Though she had remarried by then, it was Larry who mostly looked after her.

‘I took care of my mum since I was seven or eight years old, all the way through to 15, 16 when I left home. And this was difficult’, he told the Commissioner.

Larry’s mother had been married in the local Anglican church, and after her accident she became very close to the priest there. ‘She would go regularly at the weekends, to either talk with him or converse on what was happening in family life … About the difficulties she was facing, the things that were going on at home.’

When Larry was about 12, his mother organised for him to do volunteer work at the church.

‘The first time I went there, everything was fine. I went there and I cleaned the pews, polished up all the brass, cleaned the windows.’

The next time he went he was sexually assaulted. He was polishing the pews, he told the Commissioner, when a man came in and grabbed him from behind. ‘Then he put his hand into my pants and really messed around with my privates. And at the same time he was simulating sex with me … and saying profanities in my ear.'

‘The words that I heard in my ear were, “You effing like this”. That’s what I heard … And that was it. That was the nature of it.’

As soon as the man let go, Larry ran home. He immediately told his mum what had just happened. She took him back to the church to tell the priest.

‘He said to me that I was a liar. He flatly denied that that would happen.’

The man Larry had accused was a youth worker who ran camps and had been in charge of hundreds of children, the priest said. There had never been any problems. As Larry remembered it, the priest told him, ‘You basically are telling lies and you need to have yourself looked at’.

Larry never went back to the church. As far as he knows, his mother took no further action. Larry himself contacted the Church about the assault just a few years before coming to the Commission. About a year later, he’d reported it to police. He believed the police had identified his assailant, and an investigation was underway. The Church had offered him counselling and legal help which he’d declined; it was his understanding that the Church was waiting for the outcome of the police investigation before offering anything further.

‘Until there’s a 100 per cent admission of guilt and an arrest, I don’t think they’ll take it seriously’, he said.

Larry felt his life had been badly derailed by the assault. Shortly after it he began to self-harm. ‘I was in pain. And I didn’t know who to trust. And I just wanted to let the pain out. Does that make sense?’ He was no longer able to concentrate, had difficulties at school and left when he was 15. It affected his capacity to form relationships.

‘Building relationships with my stepfather and any male after that was impossible. For me, it was impossible.’ He also found it difficult to accept authority, and to take orders, and to get on with people generally.

‘People are careless with what they say, you know. They call you poofter and homo and all that sort of thing like that … It hurts me when people are so callous with the things they say, that’s all’, he said. ‘[So] you tend to stick to yourself. And when you stick to yourself and you don’t socialise you’re seen as the weird one. Everyone else sees you as the one who’s got the problem.’

Larry has been diagnosed with depression and these days lives on a pension, after years of hard physical work left him with a permanent injury. He has been married for 20 years and has a young son. He is estranged from his mother, and has been for a long time.

‘Mum thought she was making some good choices – putting me into the church, putting me in to be looked after and learn some good things, my mum thought that this was good for me. And it ended up being terrible for me. We’ve never talked about that openly, and she’s in a little bit of a state of denial about it.'

Larry told the Commissioner he’d been led to speak out by his desire to protect his son and other children. ‘That’s what I’d like to do. That’s my main goal.'

‘I just want to say one thing before I go. I don’t hate any particular race, I don’t hate any particular religion, and I don’t raise my son to do that either – I raise my son to respect all men and all ladies on an equal level, until such time as they give any reason to doubt them or question why.'

‘I think there’s a place in society for people to treat each other with respect, regardless of their colour, their sexuality or what they represent.’

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