Neal grew up in regional Australia in the 1980s. His family attended the local Anglican church and Neal joined the Church of England Boys Society (CEBS). When Neal was around eight years old, one of the leaders of CEBS, Josh, started babysitting Neal and his sisters in their family home.
Josh, who was around 19 or 20 years old, would let Neal stay up after his sisters had gone to bed. On at least one occasion he took Neal to the back bedroom. They were ‘stripped down naked’ and Josh masturbated in front of him. He encouraged Neal to do the same. On another occasion, Josh made Neal sit on his lap whilst sitting on the toilet, both with their pants down. Josh talked to Neal about sex.
Neal boasted to his family that he was allowed to stay up late. After that, he recalls that the babysitting stopped. Neal doesn’t know if his mother was suspicious or if it was a coincidence.
Shortly afterwards, Neal can remember saying ‘I want to sex you’ to his sisters as well as his best school friend, while they were playing. Nothing actually happened. However, Neal discovered later, his mother noticed him saying it too and became suspicious at that time. Neal did not disclose the abuse to anyone. Over the years his mother has brought it up but Neal would always dismiss the subject.
Neal was once at an athletics meet. Josh was present. Neal wanted to confront him but ‘just couldn’t do it’.
Years after the abuse, the priest at their church, Allan Andrews, was convicted of child sexual abuse and sent to prison. One of his victims had been Josh, who’d later taken his own life. In the press coverage, Neal noticed there was no mention of Josh as a perpetrator. Although he has sympathy for Josh’s circumstances, he still felt ‘pissed off’ that he was seen as a victim only and not a perpetrator as well.
Believing Neal was abused by Andrews, Neal’s mother encouraged Neal to speak up about it, to go to counselling and apply for compensation. Again, Neal didn’t discuss details with his mother, and didn’t proceed, as it felt too awkward.
Neal has recently spoken about the abuse with his wife, who has relayed the details back to his mother. ‘Mum had a long-held, strong suspicion about the abuse. I think it’s been very hard on her over the last 20 years. She’s carried a huge amount of personal guilt about it.’
‘You wonder if the abuse has an effect on you as a person … I’m a bit of an introvert … but is that because of that? Or is that, that’s just people? … However, I’m often thinking about it. I wouldn’t go a week without it popping into my head … when the Royal Commission started … every day you think about it … even periods when there’s nothing to trigger it off … So I think that is a bit draining. It must have an effect on you, long-term, because there’s just so much work thinking about it.’
Neal also worries about how to keep his own children safe. He recommends that youth group leaders should not be allowed to be with children alone.
After dismissing the idea of compensation for years, Neal thinks his position on that has now changed. He is now interested in applying.