Nick told the Commissioner that he was the victim of a paedophile ring from the age of six until he was nine years old. He said the ring operated out of a branch of the Church of England Boys Society (CEBS).
Nick’s earliest memory of the abuse begins in a car with a taxi driver and a man named Owen. The two men were driving him to CEBS for the first time. Along the way Owen started fondling Nick and then performed oral sex. Nick said he had an orgasm for the first time in his life, and this experience left an imprint that has had serious psychological repercussions, including what his therapist refers to as ‘toxic shame’.
‘To add insult to injury, when we got there at this church, which was across the road from my primary school, they gave me cherry brandy. And if you can see the sick humour in that – this “cherry”, they’d taken my virginity. So we’re talking quite sinister and calculated paedophiles’.
Nick was then taken into the church where he joined the other boys and the priest in a game of hide-and-seek.
‘And immediately the priest found me. And again, fondling. It wasn’t as, how should we say, overpowering as the first experience but it was pretty clear that this was part of the protocol.’
On the way home, Owen and the taxi driver gave Nick more cherry brandy and told him, ‘This is our secret. This is what boys do. We all do this and it’s alright, and it’s our secret but you’ll get in trouble with Mummy if you say anything’.
The same pattern of abuse continued for the next three years. Nick did what he could to avoid it, sleeping on the streets and even in cardboard boxes in his own backyard to avoid coming into the house where the men were sometimes waiting.
At the time, Nick’s father was mostly absent and his mother neglectful. When he tried to tell her about the abuse one day she punished him for lying.
Eventually Nick ran away and spent years living on the streets. He got involved in petty crime and violence, did short stints in various remand centres and became an alcoholic at 12. He was then arrested and sent to a state-run youth correctional centre.
‘This is where things got very, very twisted … I ended up with malnutrition, scurvy and ringworms.’
The centre was a brutal place where Nick and the other boys were ‘psychologically tortured’.
‘I watched kids’ minds get broken in there ... I think only two per cent of the kids that were in that reform school have not become recidivists and continued and done a lifetime in jail. I’m one of the few standing who didn’t. I’m tremendously proud of that.’
When Nick was in his late teens a new supervisor arrived at the centre.
‘God bless him. This was his first job. He came in and he saw me getting brutalised and he pulled me aside. “If we don’t get you out of here they’re going to kill you”. And he did. In one week.’
When Nick left the institution he was carrying the legacy of severe psychological trauma.
‘I was always looking for the exit. Developed a personality of extreme rage against authority. So I didn’t fit in anywhere. It damaged so much of my life. For so long I was never able to have a relationship of any value.’
Despite these obstacles, Nick taught himself to read and write and also to play music. He went on to develop a career in the creative arts.
Over the years he’s reported the abuse to police three times but has never seen any significant action taken. He said he chatted with a lawyer recently and is planning to start proceedings against the Anglican Church.
A few years back, Nick reached a crisis point, so he sought help through therapy. He told the Commissioner:
‘And that’s what’s going on now. And you. And it’s only because of this that I’m really starting to put some value in my life, that I can go back to the source of it, which is this organised, protected, paedophile gang.’