‘[I was born into] a very bad family … I never met my real father, who was in prison. I met my real mother, under sufferance, only because my foster parents wanted me to meet her and I said, “Well, the only place I’ll meet her is at home with you” and she agreed with that. … I never got on well with her at all.’
In the late 1950s, Leslie was about two years old when he and his siblings were placed in care after their mother was charged with offences related to stealing. He was fostered by Pat and Trevor Martin when he was five or six, and stayed with them until he was released from state wardship in his late teens.
‘They were very hard people, but very generous … I didn’t realise that until later, but [they] sort of gave us everything … loving, but hard. Anything went wrong, you’d cop a belting in them days. Sent to bed early if you didn’t do your work, without sweets. Things like that. But I miss ‘em today. I really do.’
Leslie has mixed feelings about Pat’s brother, Ray. ‘I can remember a lot of stuff with him. This is so hard, because he’s been so good to me you know, in a lot of ways, with putting a roof over me head when Mum died.’ Ray began sexually abusing Leslie when he was about nine, and the abuse continued until Leslie was in his early teens.
When Leslie was growing up, Ray offered to help him get fit and the two of them used to lift weights in Ray’s bedroom. ‘When it came to the rubdown after the weights session, you know, things started to happen, like he’d touch me … I sort of shrugged it away, thought he was mucking around …
‘The fondling got worse, you know … touching me, and wanting me to touch him, you know. I couldn’t do that …’ Even though he didn’t want to keep visiting Ray’s house, his parents, unaware of what was going on, insisted that he go.
Leslie began to get in trouble with the police when he was 11 or 12 and, as part of his bail conditions, had to stay at the house Ray shared with his mother. Because it was a small house, Leslie had to share Ray’s bed. ‘He started fondling me again. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t tell Nan. I couldn’t tell Mum and Dad.’
Leslie described Ray’s demeanour as both threatening and affectionate. He would give him money for his bus fare home, and tell him, ‘This is between you and me’. The abuse only stopped when Leslie moved away from the area.
Because he kept getting into trouble with the police, Leslie spent time in juvenile detention centres, before going to adult jail when he was 18.
At the first centre, ‘you’d be asleep, and … you’d feel the blankets go off you and there’d be [an officer standing] there masturbating. They’d try and fondle you and you’d pull the sheets back, or you’d scream out and they’d be gone … It happened quite a few times … It wasn’t just me … You’d look over and there’d be someone else …
‘Probably the worst thing that’s ever … I’ve never, ever told anyone this. Never …’ Leslie was sick in bed when an officer dragged him out of bed into the toilet block. Someone had smeared faeces on the wall, and the officer blamed Leslie.
The officer pushed Leslie into the cubicle and raped him. He was told, if he said anything, he’d end up like a boy who was rumoured to have been killed at the centre.
In his late teens Leslie was very ‘mixed up, getting into trouble … Stealing, fighting … totally off the rails’. Once he found a partner who understood him, he began to do well. He hasn’t been in jail for 20 years.
The sexual abuse Leslie experienced in foster care and juvenile detention, ‘stuffed me life up. It really has. Even till this day, I don’t know how to love, to put me arms around someone. [My partner] deserves it … I can’t … I sleep better during the day’. Leslie finds it difficult to share a bed.
As an adult he accessed his welfare file and noticed that, ‘no one really asked what was wrong, to the point I was always in trouble. I think there should have been people … Like I know Mum and Dad would have [done something if they’d known]. I think Dad would have killed [Ray] or the [worker in] the boys’ home’.
In the mid-2000s Leslie tried to report Ray to the police, but although they said they would get back to him, no one did. He has some concerns that an investigation might have an adverse effect on Ray because of his advanced age, but he would still like to see him charged. He wants people to know that Ray isn’t the good man most people think he is.