‘I believe the abuse started when I was a baby. I don’t ever remember – excuse the language – “Oh, this man has got his dick in my mouth, this is new!”’
Leonard David is recalling more than a decade of rape, starting in the early 1970s, by a close family friend, Bob Smith, who shared an involvement in Freemasonry with Leonard‘s father. ‘It was just something that happened, there was no surprise at any point. It must have started when I was very young.’
Leonard had been adopted at a very early age. His father was a successful Melbourne businessman. ‘To all intents and purposes we were a typical Australian household that was living pretty well.’
But Leonard wasn’t growing up typical. ‘I must have thought, “Oh, this is what you do to uncles”, and went to do that – what I did with Smith – to Mum’s brother one day when I was four or five, when Mum and Dad were away.’ Sadly, the uncle didn’t stop to wonder where a small child had learnt this behaviour: ‘I got beaten quite severely with a broomstick’.
Most of Smith’s attacks were in the family home when Leonard’s parents were absent. But Leonard also recalls being taken at least half a dozen times to two shelters for homeless men he believes were run by the Freemasons, where Smith and other men molested him. By this stage, at around age nine, the abuse had progressed to anal rape.
The confusion continued over what was normal and appropriate sexual behaviour. ‘I had a friend, John, down the road and he got involved as well. We used to do things to each other because Smith encouraged that. And John used to get abused by Smith as well.’
‘It wasn’t until I was about 10 or 11 that I asked one of the boys that I was playing around with at school “What’s your uncle’s name that does it to you?” and he said, “I don’t have no uncle that does this”. That was the first inkling I had that this didn’t happen to every kid.’
Finally, around age 15, Leonard was able to resist Smith. ‘I was very weak as a kid – asthma and a lot of other health problems – but from 13 to 15 I bulked up quite a bit. And I’d done boxing … I’d got big enough to say no.’
He finished Year 12 with plans to go into social work, but was persuaded to enter the family business, managing one of the retail outlets by age 19. He was also smoking marijuana – ‘I started at 15’ – and drinking a bottle of whisky a night. It was easy to get away with. ‘The employees were all long-term, they’d been around for decades – so nothing was said.’
His parents weren’t so compliant. ‘I turned up at Mum and Dad’s for dinner and I was drunk as a skunk, and they said “We’re a bit worried about your drinking” and I said “That’s not what you have to worry about”.
‘And that’s when it came out, what Smith did to me. I explained that’s why I’m drinking because I can’t cope with it.’
This revelation didn’t make much impact. ‘That was very promptly forgotten about and washed over. If you were paying your bills and getting to work on time, that was the criteria of life back then. There was more concern about what the neighbours would think rather than what was actually going on.
‘But my drinking and drug taking got worse. So, despite the fact that many people thought I was very successful – the youngest bloke around running a business – I actually was a mess.’
‘I just kept on trying to cope. I got counselling. I got engaged to a Christian woman and got into the faith. And then I found myself being quite isolated and abused by them because my wife had told her mother, who was the biggest blabbermouth ever born, and the mother told the priest, then the priest told the whole congregation – and it was twisted round that I was a child molester!
‘Everyone prayed for me, but I went ballistic. So I was not welcome back at the church, and my ballistic response just verified that I was Satan and should not be entertained. The relationship started going downhill after that …’
Leonard says he has only had two partnerships – ‘And they’ve both failed because of the abuse … I found another woman that was as dismissive as my mother, so every time I tried to talk to her about it, it was “Get over it, be a man, stop being a wuss”.’
Meanwhile, his career was also in disarray. ‘I’d left the family business; I made the mistake of thinking, “I’ll set up my own little show”. But then I found myself feeling really suicidal while holding a nail gun or a power saw, so that very quickly fell in a heap. I couldn’t work anymore.
‘I ended up seeing a psychiatrist, and trying to deal with Centrelink, which I found totally humiliating and which was a big shock to my family.’
He finally approached the police, even though Smith was dead by then. ‘Going to the police was one way of bridging that gap and being validated. Probably that was the best decision I made in that period because the policeman I dealt with was very compassionate, very understanding. That was the first time in my life I felt that someone had listened to me … The police told me that Smith had had a history dating back to the 1940s.’
Leonard had less success with the Freemasons when he wrote to them about 10 years ago. ‘Their reply wasn’t very helpful. It was basically a warning – “These are very serious allegations, be very careful”. I told them, “My integrity is intact but I don’t think yours is”.’
Leonard found practical help at a retreat in New South Wales. ‘I was lucky enough to find a place with a very good program for people that have been what I’ve been through. It’s a healing retreat, run by survivors for survivors.’
Inspired, he has now come full circle back to social work. ‘The past four years have been much more positive. I’ve got a very good connection with my children … I feel like I have some purpose.’
But Leonard isn’t so buoyant about ending child sexual abuse. ’We’ve got damaged generation after generation and we need to do something so that doesn’t continue.
‘Society talks about how we need to save the children, which is great. However, unless we heal the adults first, we’re always going to be chasing our tail.’
And some adults may be beyond help. ‘My elder sister, the biological daughter, she’s told me for decades, “Children that are abused should be killed because they become abusers”.’