Marshall John's story

At 13 or 14 years of age, Marshall joined a troop of venturers who were overseen by the scouts in Sydney’s north. It was the late 1970s and a man named Trevor was the troop leader.

‘He was a confident school teacher, engaging … probably in his late 30s’, Marshall told the Commissioner.

‘He suggested that there would be an initiation course for new members of the venturer group who were coming … I hadn’t seen this done before, I didn’t know what it was. Prior to this he suggested I go downstairs to a storage facility that was underneath the scout hall.

‘He then removed my shorts … and proceeded to rub toothpaste on my genitalia, which was incredibly painful. Then, as I protested it hurt, there was a saucepan full of water, I remember quite clearly, and he suggested he would wash it off for me. And then I was told, of course, that I wasn’t to tell anyone. Then we went back upstairs and went on with the whole ritual.

‘It was quite a blur to me after that, but there was people having their pants pulled down and I believe I saw one youth have a sausage inserted between his buttocks.’

Marshall stayed with the venturers for a few years. He was not abused again. ‘He may have suggested we do it again but I rejected that.’

Marshall did not tell anyone about the incident. ‘I very much blanked it out after. I think I was so sexually naive that it didn’t occur to me that this was out of the ordinary.

‘Catholic family – we weren’t exactly strong on sexual teaching. By the time I got to boarding school, they very much ensured that we had very little time to think about anything. They kept us moving … It wasn’t until I began to form relationships that it sort of resurfaced.’

Marshall believes his approach to sexual intimacy has been affected by the abuse. He has always needed to take a dominant role and be in complete control during sexual activity. He did not realise that this was not normal male sexuality, and it has caused him relationship problems.

Marshall has had a successful life and is in a long-term relationship. And while he has been through many jobs, struggled with depression and felt a need to ‘reinvent himself’ at times, Marshall won’t sheet home all the blame to the one incident of abuse.

‘It’s not something I believe that’s had a terrible effect on my life, other than perhaps at a deeper level; but even then it’s not something that I can’t process. But for other people, I realise that it has a more profound effect upon them. So I thought if there had been people who had been affected by this fellow … then I should probably call a halt.’

Marshall disclosed his abuse to his wife early in their relationship, but has told very few people otherwise. ‘I didn’t talk to anyone about it, largely because I wanted to spare my parents any pain … I have no desire to speak to them about it.’

In the late 1980s Marshall returned to his old venturer’s troop and asked about his leader. He was told Trevor no longer had anything to do with the scouts, and there was no record of him ever having been a leader. ‘I took that as meaning something else had occurred with other people there.’

He is considering whether to take the matter further with police.

Marshall now lives in the country and has worked with several survivors of child sexual abuse who suffered in the Catholic school system. He is acutely aware of the far greater impacts they have endured through their lives. Marshall believes abuse survivors need to be given an opportunity to ‘take possession of the narrative’, responding to the abuse in their own way. He argues victims are too often told what they should be feeling and doing by Church mandated programs like Towards Healing.

‘In terms of prevention I think that background checks are crucial … I just find it terribly sad that there are people willing to take advantage of children’s innocence.’

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