Marvin Warwick's story

In the early 1950s Marvin was placed in an orphanage in regional Victoria. His father had died, and his mother suffered a ‘nervous breakdown’ and was unable to look after him.

‘Although I cannot recall a great many things, as I was only around five or so, I do remember that I would fight a lot with other children, who all seemed bigger than me … I was a very [hyperactive] fighting little boy. I suppose all little boys are like that to a degree.’

Marvin often wet the bed at night. ‘This … was brought on by nightmares … I know my bad dreams were about being left at the home, and about being beaten and hit, mostly around the head … nightmares about someone touching me amongst the bedclothes.’

When he wet the bed, Marvin would ‘scream and call out … The woman in charge would attend and take my wet clothes off and lead me out of the ward, out up the hallway to a room which was dark. There, someone, a man, would put me on his knee … I was without any clothes and felt very uncomfortable. The man would fuss over me and kiss me a lot and tell me everything would be alright.

‘He said he had a banana for me and I had to put it in my mouth. When this first happened, I knew immediately it was not a banana, and refused. He hit me around the head until I did as he said, and only when he was finished was I pushed away'.

After the man had finished sexually abusing Marvin, the woman in charge would dress him and take him back to bed. ‘She would sometimes also hit me, calling me names like, “dirty little pig”. She beat me a lot … when I came back to my bed from the dark room.’

The nightmares, bedwetting and sexual abuse continued for several years. ‘A couple of times someone would drag me out of bed and take me to the dark room even if I was asleep. I believed all this time that my grandpa or my mother would come and get me and help me and take me from this terrible place.’

Marvin told the Commissioner that he always heard children crying at night. ‘All the time. Everyone cried. Sometimes other kids would get into bed with you and cry … look[ing] for comfort. That’s all we wanted.’

As well as the sexual abuse he experienced, Marvin recalled that the children were beaten regularly, ‘for the littlest things. It was a horrible place.’

When he was nine, Marvin’s grandfather and mother did come and take him home, but his mother had re-married ‘and the man she married was a brute and didn’t want me in the house’.

Marvin’s home life was ‘as unhappy as it was in [the orphanage]. It was awful and I used to go to my grandfather’s and grandmother’s … I would run away from home all the time and go to them’. At 14, Marvin left school and went to live by himself. ‘I felt most happy when I was on my own, away from all the horrors of the past.’

Marvin now suffers from mental health issues and acute depression. ‘I have lost not only my confidence, but also all trust in people … I’ve lost my religion and access to the community I had. Along with this, I lost my childhood. I’ve lost the ability to maintain a career or formal education … I was functionally illiterate until the age of around 30, when I attended night school … My younger years were to drift from job to job without any real sense of purpose.’

Marvin recalled that he lived on the streets at times, where he had no access to social security benefits or assistance. ‘Former marital relationships were marred by the stress that I had suffered. Today, the nightmares continue on a regular basis. My wife is also disturbed … as those past horrors cause me to call, cry out and wail in my sleep.’

The first time Marvin spoke about his abuse was about 15 or 20 years ago when he told his current wife, who has been a huge support to him.

‘I spoke to my psychiatrist and I spoke with [my wife]. Other than that, I’ve kept it within me, very shamefully. It’s only when this all come out, that the Royal Commission was going to be established and what it was for, that I started asking myself questions like, “Why did this happen” and “Why are children being affected, and still are” and that was one of the things that prompted me to finally admit to my own horrors and make a clean breast of it.’

Marvin said he hoped that by coming to the Royal Commission, he had been of some help. ‘I know other boys that have grown into men, that have led terrible lives, and I feel sorry for them, but I can do nothing about it … I just wonder what’s going to happen to children from this Commission, and I really hope that something comes out of it.’

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