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Laurie John's story

Eight-year-old Laurie didn’t have a strong bond with his dad. This was part of the reason he enjoyed the special attention he got from scout leader Martin Bennet.

‘I always found Martin very charismatic’, Laurie told the Commissioner. ‘He just listened to me and cared for me more than my own dad did, it seemed. I had a good connection with Martin. He was like a father figure. In fact I wished at some time he was my father.’

Laurie added, ‘Martin knew that he could do what he did to me, because of my relationship with my father’.

The abuse occurred over a two-year period in the late 1970s. The first incident happened while Laurie and the other cubs were away on a camping trip at a property that Martin owned in New South Wales. Martin came up behind Laurie and put one hand on his shoulder and the other on his genitals.

‘I sort of froze and, you know, at that age I don’t think you put much thought into it. I brushed it off as quickly as it happened. Thought it was probably a mistake.’

The next incident happened some months later at a scout hall in Sydney and was much the same. ‘It happened once again so quickly that once again I thought nothing of it.’

The third incident was different. This time Martin took hold of Laurie’s penis and rubbed it till Laurie got an erection. This moment marked the beginning of a change in Laurie’s behaviour.

‘That was probably the occasion that, because I became aroused at what he’d done at such a young age – I was nine by then – that left me wondering. I started to go a little bit off the rails.’

Laurie developed ‘issues with authority’ and started rebelling against his teachers. ‘I wasn’t rude but if I was asked to do something I’d take my time doing it. I was a smartarse.’

The last incident happened on a camping trip when Laurie was 10. He had just put himself to bed in a tent that he shared with several other boys when Martin came in to say goodnight. Laurie saw him bend over a boy named Nick and put his hand on Nick’s groin.

‘That’s when I thought, “Oh, my turn’s coming”.’

Sure enough, Martin came over to Laurie a few minutes later and started touching his penis. This went on for a couple of minutes then Martin got up and left. Laurie thought for a moment then decided to speak to Nick.

‘I said “Nick, did he just touch you on the penis?” And he’s gone, “Yeah, he did”. I said, “He did me too. And that’s the final time”. That’s when I clicked … And I said “That’s it, I’m going to go and tell my dad”.’

Laurie’s dad, also a scout leader, was staying in one of the nearby tents. This wasn’t an unusual scenario. Most of the other incidents of abuse had occurred while Laurie’s dad was working nearby. But Laurie had never felt confident enough to reach out to him before. This time was different.

‘I had a witness. I had someone to back me up. Because my father didn’t believe much of what I said. He didn’t like me that much, to be honest.’

Laurie’s dad believed Laurie’s account and told Laurie to sleep in the tent with him that night. Under orders from his dad, Laurie remained at the camp for the next two days and hardly spoke a word to anyone.

At home he was told to ‘forget about it’. When he asked if he could go back to scouts his dad said ‘we’ve got a few things to sort out first with this Martin’. When Laurie went back to scouts a few months later, Martin was no longer there. Laurie asked his dad what had happened. His dad said only ‘it’s been dealt with’.

Laurie ‘settled down’ for the next few years and did well in early high school. Then in his mid-teens he began thinking more and more about what Martin had done. He started ‘wanting more answers … wanting to know what’s been happening and why nothing further was done about this’.

His dad was a ‘brick wall’ who gave him nothing. His mum tried to take him to a psychologist but Laurie walked out in the middle of the session. He wasn’t interested in talking to a stranger. He just wanted his parents to listen. They didn’t, and Laurie’s behaviour worsened.

‘I was kicked out of home. Living on the streets. I was “uncontrollable”, they put it down as. Once again I just put it down to acting out and not being respected. “You guys aren’t hearing me out, you’re not hearing what I’ve been through. You don’t even want to know how long this has been going on for, how many occasions, the details about anything.” It’s just “forget about it, forget it ever happened” sort of thing. It drove me nuts.’

Laurie had a few run-ins with police then got a job and spent the next few years ‘experimenting with drugs and just escaping life in general’. In his late 20s he spoke to a friend who’d also been abused as a kid. This motivated Laurie to report Martin to police. But first he rang his dad.

‘And saying, “Look, I am going to detectives and I’m going to tell them what had happened. I need your support, because you were there”. He straight up said to me “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not giving you any support. You just want to get money”.’

Laurie went to police anyway and told his story. Months went by and nothing eventuated. Laurie attempted suicide.

Years later, Laurie discovered that his stepson had been sexually abused. As well as reporting that abuser to police, Laurie decided to report Martin too. This time the police investigated, found another of Martin’s victims and launched a prosecution.

At the trial Laurie’s dad gave evidence that was inconsistent with Laurie’s account. Martin was found not guilty in regard to offences against Laurie. When the other victim heard this, he dropped out and so Martin walked away free.

Laurie is hoping for a better outcome from his civil case against Martin and the Scouts. After several years of complete silence from the Scouts’ legal team, Laurie is on the verge of receiving a settlement.

How has he managed to keep pushing forward in the face of so many obstacles and delays? Laurie puts it down to his relationship with his partner and stepson, the support he gets from his counsellor and his own tenacity and belligerence.

‘I see things through to the end. I suppose I’m one of those determined people … I’ll get back up and I’ll dust myself off and get back into it.’

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