‘If someone had’ve listened when I was 15 I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you in prison now. I know that.’
Morris didn’t sleep much the night before he came to the Commission. ‘I’ve only got one chance to talk to you so I’ve tried to remember everything.’
In the early 1970s, Morris and his siblings were sexually abused by their stepfather, Tim Smith. Morris was four years old when the abuse started.
Smith was an influential man in the navy and attempts Morris made to get help led, with only one exception, to no action at all.
Morris first told staff at a children’s home about his stepfather’s abuse. He and his brother had been placed in the home by his stepfather and mother Lisa when they went on holidays. Smith didn’t want to fork out for the boys’ holidays. Morris took the chance to tell the staff that Smith was abusing him and his brother. The two boys were then fostered out.
But when Lisa and Smith came home they demanded the boys be returned. So children’s services returned them – ‘straight back into the same situation’.
The abuse continued and Morris took every chance he could not to go home. He told a teacher that he was being physically abused. ‘She’d seen me come in with cigarette burns.’ She paid him with her own money to do filing so that he could stay away from home a bit longer.
But one of Tim Smith’s superiors came to see the teacher and told her in no uncertain terms to lay off.
When Morris turned 15 he joined the navy but it made him more vulnerable to his stepfather. He was now in Tim Smith’s world.
‘I didn’t realise how much control and manipulation it would leave me open to with him. He had more power over me.’
On top of the ritual physical humiliations and bruisings that many apprentices suffer through, Morris now had his stepfather’s sexual attacks on the base to deal with as well.
‘I was screwed. I thought the navy would offer protection.’
Morris confronted Smith and said ‘it wasn’t happening anymore’. He believes his stepfather then put the word out against him, because soon other apprentices started to attack him. Morris was dragged into a room and raped. His attacker told him, ‘Daddy said you like this’.
Morris reported the rape to two people: a Catholic chaplain on base and an executive officer. The chaplain said his hands were tied. He told Morris that he should come to service more often. ‘I left his office feeling worse than what was happening.’
The executive officer was annoyed and didn’t want to listen. ‘He was more pissed off that I was going to be a failure on one of his selection boards.’
Morris begged to be allowed to do his apprenticeship away from his stepfather but this was knocked back.
So Morris went AWOL. ‘I was hurt that bad I was bleeding … no one was listening.’
He bought a car and lived in it. He was not yet 16. When he ran out of money he stole some. The navy threw him out and sent him home.
In the following years, Morris was married for a while. He had various jobs. He also had his first stint in prison after he unwittingly slept in a stolen car.
Keeping work after that was tricky - Morris lost one job because of his criminal record. His mother also undermined his attempts to stay straight. It was hard for him, accustomed from childhood to moving around with his family, to stay in one place.
About six years ago Morris took on regular counselling. He’d just turned 40 and was crying in his prison cell. ‘Why do I keep coming back to these places?’ he asked himself. He realised he had issues that linked back directly to the sexual abuse.
‘You’ve got to confront this one day’, a counsellor warned him, ‘and it’s going to hurt more than we’ve ever done here’.
Morris realised that he chooses relationships that are destined not to work out. He’s currently on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist. He is keen to get back on medication.
‘I’m scared of people. I’m 47 years old and I don’t have a friend.’
Morris rang Crime Stoppers earlier this year. He was keeping a promise to his second partner ‘to get Tim Smith reported and get him stopped … because it’s screwed up 40 years of my life’.
A police officer came to see Morris soon after he rang. Morris is now waiting to hear how the investigation is going.