Lindsay was born into a troubled family in South Australia and became a ward of the state at age five. He was fostered by his aunt and uncle for some years in the early 1980s and was happy with them. But while staying with his mother, Lindsay was abused by her boyfriend of the time. He told his aunt about the abuse and it was reported to a social worker.
‘When nothing happened I thought that was just the way things go’, Lindsay told the Commissioner. ‘I wasn’t old enough then to understand the law like I do now. So when it happened again when I was 12 I didn’t say anything.’
Lindsay’s next foster carers lived not far away from his mother and brothers and extended family. He described foster mother Gail Peters as a ‘wonderful lady’. But Ron Peters sexually abused him for eight months.
‘It always happened when my foster mother and foster brother were out … Foster mother thought I was acting out because I could, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her her husband was doing these things to me.
‘He threatened to kill my family. He only lived around the corner, a two-minute pushbike ride away. I thought it’s well within his capabilities to do that sort of thing, so I didn’t say anything.
‘I didn’t know there were people I could go to that would deal with the situation. I didn’t know that the police would take me seriously, because the Welfare mob didn’t.’
Lindsay started to behave very badly and his foster mother gave him back to Welfare. He had more foster family placements until he was 14 years old, when he left the state and was allowed to live with his birth mother.
‘The abuse that did happen in that seven or eight months was enough to scar me for life. I ended up leaving school when I was 15, had one longterm job in my entire life. I just found it really hard to do things that normal people do.’
Lindsay’s schooling suffered as he lost concentration. He abused alcohol and drugs, engaged in self-harming behaviour and also attempted suicide. He had admissions to a psych hospital and was admitted to a drug rehabilitation program as he was addicted to speed. ‘I’ve been medicated for every mental illness you can think of except PTSD.’ A psychologist recently reviewed all his symptoms, including recurrent nightmares, and diagnosed PTSD. ‘And that is the correct diagnosis … since I’ve been medicated for that I haven’t had a major meltdown.’
Throughout his troubled life Lindsay kept his abuse a secret. A few years ago he realised he wasn’t scared of his abuser, Ron Peters, any more. Lindsay approached the police and made a statement. He found it to be a positive experience and said the police were supportive. Lindsay was also uplifted by the reaction of his friends when they found out what he was doing.
‘It would have been 24 or 25 years I worried about what people would think. And then to find out that they all support me – I just felt like an absolute dick. Could’ve told them 20 years ago.’
Looking to the future, Lindsay is hoping the foster care system will change. ‘My overriding concern is that this is still happening … There are a lot of kids out there who will potentially go through the same things as I went through. And that scares me.’
He wants to see broader checks on carers. ‘Check the carer. Check who they know. Cast a wider net.’
Troubled children need to be interviewed by independent people without the carer around. ‘When a kid comes to you and says stuff like this has happened – believe ’em. Because it’s happened before and you cannot tell me the department doesn’t know about it.
‘I don’t know how they can call it a child protection system because it doesn’t really protect the child.’