In the mid-1980s, when Matt was about 10 years old, he went along to a special ‘transfer camp’ for boys who were graduating from cubs to scouts. At the camp he was quickly targeted by scout master Doug Waterford.
‘He had a way of picking out the weak ones’, Matt told the Commissioner. ‘I was the smallest kid. The others were having a big mud fight in a big mud pit, and I didn’t want to get in there because I knew I was going to get smashed, and he said, “Come on, we’ll go have a shower and use the hot water before they all waste it”. And that was the first time it happened.’
Waterford fondled Matt in the shower. Matt said he didn’t understand what was going on and found the experience confusing.
‘He was a father figure. When it first happened I didn’t know anything about sex. So I thought it was sort of like “this is what dads do”.’
The abuse continued, escalating over time to multiple incidents of rape. Matt said he was too scared and confused to tell anyone what was going on, as Waterford often made him feel like they were in some kind of special, secret relationship.
‘He said he loved me and he would make me say “I love you” and kiss him goodbye and that sort of stuff… A “go-back-to-the-abuser” type situation it was.’
Matt said that the abuse affected his motivation and his ability to dream and get excited about the future.
‘When it was happening they showed the AIDS ads with the bowling skeleton, Grim Reaper ads. I was probably 11 or 12 at the time. When I saw them my understanding was that if you slept with a man you got AIDS and died, so I expected to be dead by 17 … So I never put in any effort at school. I still don’t really know what I want to do.’
When he was about 18, Matt ‘realised it was all wrong’ and brought the abuse to an end. A short while later he opened up to his girlfriend, disclosing the abuse for the first time ever. The results were painful. After they broke up, the girl told a bunch of other people what Matt had said and they laughed at him.
Matt said this ‘probably pushed me towards the drugs a bit more’.
In his early twenties he developed an addiction to speed. But around that time he was also working hard in an apprenticeship and he met the woman who became his partner and is still with him today, 20 years later.
When Matt was 22 his mother saw in the newspaper that Waterford had been arrested for molesting several boys. She put two and two together, asked Matt if he had been abused and Matt said yes.
The moment was a turning point in Matt’s life. When he saw the article he became determined to hold his abuser to account.
He devoted himself to the case against Waterford, offering his statement to police and providing the names of other boys who had been abused.
Waterford was convicted and sentenced to four and a half years in jail. Matt was disappointed with the leniency of the sentence but said that the act of going through the judicial process helped him to cope with the impact of the abuse.
‘I realised at the time that the more I told it the better it made me feel.’
Matt has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been seeing a doctor regularly and has managed to kick his drug habit.
One of his main concerns now is that the Scouts have not properly been held to account for their part in the abuse. He said he spoke to a lawyer about taking action but was told that he couldn’t sue the Scouts because they are a non-profit organisation.
‘It sickens me that I can’t get a cent off a non-profit organisation that we used to pay to go to every week. So the money went somewhere, and they do have assets. So as far as I’m concerned, if Scouts have to sell off all their assets to pay off victims and no longer exist, well that’s what they’ve got to do.’