‘I’ve been doing drugs since I was molested, until about a year ago.’
Mike enjoyed a happy and active early childhood growing up in New South Wales in the 1960s. His life ‘went off the rails, big time’ after he was sexually abused as a 12-year-old. Mike attended a sports camp run by a Christian youth organisation, where instructor Rudolph Landers assaulted him. Landers also took Mike to his home and abused him there. Mike told the Commissioner he was too embarrassed about the incidents to report them to anyone at the time.
A year later Mike started at a government high school and was again targeted for abuse, this time by a teacher, Trevor Ramsey. From then, at age 13, he began to drink heavily and use recreational drugs.
‘I didn’t know what it was then. I was just being a kid, whatever. You don’t think that you’re acting out, you don’t realise how bad you are.’
Mike kept the sexual abuse secret for 30 years while its impacts played out. He reports being depressed and angry, with wild mood swings. He has been on antidepressants all his life, and still has trust issues. ‘I don’t trust anyone or anything.’ Mike married and had children, around whom he was hyper-vigilant, but he didn’t confide his history of abuse to his wife, and the marriage ended in a bitter divorce.
Mike decided he needed to deal with his problems and sought counselling when he was in his 40s. The counsellor encouraged Mike to report his abuse to the police. ‘I was shattered. I was absolutely shattered.’ The detective Mike saw took his statement. But Mike was told, ‘“Nar, it’s your word versus him”. And to be told to go home and talk to your psychiatrist!’ Mike offered to confront his abusers, who were both still alive, to obtain confessions. The police refused the offer.
A few years later Mike had a better experience with police from a different station. Another victim of Trevor Ramsey had come forward, and this time when Mike offered to seek out his old teacher the police accepted. Mike approached Ramsey while wearing a recording device and managed to gather incriminating evidence.
Ramsey was charged with child sexual assault. Shortly afterwards he took his own life. Mike did not feel cheated. ‘Good, it was over. It consumed a lot of my life and I went through a real hard time then. So a bit of it was good, it was over.’
‘It just seemed to be that was the stopping point for me there, with him.’
Mike would like to find a sense of closure with Rudolph Landers as well. He threatened court action against the Christian youth organisation which ran the camp. They offered mediation. Mike attended with his lawyer. ‘It ended up just being a stupid meeting. There was no mediator there … they started crapping on … they put us in separate rooms and they started having a go at us, saying, “We never had buildings there and we didn’t run camps in [that year]”.
‘To this day it’s just sat there in limbo.’
‘They should take on the attitude we can’t change the past but we can fix the future … to try and put you down when you knew better, that was the part that got me.’
At the time of these proceedings Mike’s marriage was failing. After separating from his wife he approached the Family Court to organise an access agreement so that - despite the acrimonious divorce - he could see his children. Mike attended a meeting with a court officer and tried to explain why he’d been unreliable in the past.
‘I told her about the child abuse and she said, “Well, how can you be trusted with children?” Never seen my kids since. I just wanted to slam her.’ Mike feels his admission was used against him in court in an ignorant and discriminatory way. He was not granted formal access to his children and is still mostly estranged from them.
Despite these setbacks Mike is working to get his life back on track. He has received a payout from the state government as compensation for the sexual assault at high school. He has undergone intensive counselling with a psychologist and has given up drugs and alcohol.
‘You’ve lived it your whole life and changing is like starting life all over again.’