‘What the abuse did to me was it actually created somebody that I didn’t like … I lost who I was, and this was the thing: I became somebody that I didn’t really want to become.’
Throughout his teenage years, Norm was sexually abused many times by several men. The two worst offenders both worked for government departments in the small New South Wales town where Norm lived in the 1960s and 1970s.
The first of them, Greg Bailey, used his connections to dig into Norm’s background, learning all about the violent home that Norm had recently escaped from.
‘He preyed on me … He was just an evil person. He made me do things to him. He was extremely just a nasty person, how he cornered me in a situation and I couldn’t get away from him.’
Bailey abused Norm three times, starting when Norm was 13 and ending two years later when Norm ‘bit his penis and told him to eff off’. Around this time the second abuser, Michael Hewson, stepped in. Norm ran into him one day in the toilets of the local public library.
‘When I walked around the corner he was standing in there, masturbating, and because I got a fright, I got a shock … I froze there, and I don’t know why I didn’t go back into the library but I froze there.’
The next thing Norm knew, he was dragged into one of the cubicles and assaulted. Afterwards, he ran home. What he didn’t know at the time was that Hewson followed him and found out where he lived. When Norm came out of the house later he saw Hewson sitting in his car.
‘And I didn’t know what to do, and I still don’t know why I didn’t say anything, now, why I didn’t tell somebody about it. And I think it was because of the embarrassment of what had happened. And then once he knew where I lived he then continually kept parking his car and waiting for me.’
Eventually Hewson managed to corner Norm. He then bribed him with marijuana and Scotch, gradually pushing him towards heavier drinking, more drugs and more abuse. As the months passed, Hewson became increasingly controlling, instructing Norm on the sex acts he wanted him to perform.
Norm lost his power and his sense of self, and eventually, when he was almost 20 years old, he decided he couldn’t take it anymore and reported Hewson to police. Hewson was dealing drugs at the time, so Norm decided to mention that too.
‘I thought in my mind, if I tell them about his drugs at the same time I’m telling them about the abuse, they’ll know that that’s true so they’re going to believe me about the other. In my own mind, that’s what I thought.’
Norm thought wrong. The police said to him, ‘Well you would have wanted it anyway’. They charged Hewson with drug offences but never questioned him about the sexual assaults. So Norm tried to pursue the matter with the federal police and Hewson’s boss. They dismissed his complaint, saying that they couldn’t do anything unless he produced some evidence.
In a final effort to get some kind of justice, Norm confronted Hewson in person. ‘He said, “You wanted it. If you didn’t want it you wouldn’t have continued it on so long”. I know that’s not true now, but back then I was too split up with the drug-taking … It had just spiralled out of control.’
Norm was only 20 at the time, addled by drugs and conflicted about his sexuality. ‘Before any of the abuse started,’ he reflected, ‘I don’t think I was gay. I became gay because of what he did’.
He moved to the city and worked as a prostitute to fund his drug habit. Over the next decade he fell into a ‘black hole’ where he was hospitalised for overdoses and attempts on his own life.
About 10 years ago Norm managed to overcome his drug habit and he’s been clean ever since. The abuse, however, remains a part of him. Sometimes counsellors and friends try to tell him to move on. Norm wishes that he could but knows that he can’t.
‘Every day he’s there, but what I do is I actually then push him there and I do other things around it. But at night I still – he’s there. And it never goes away. Like when I look in the mirror I hate what I see. I hate who’s there but I can’t change that.’
Still, he has his techniques for managing himself and they’re working well. Recently he found the strength to speak to some lawyers about taking legal action against his abusers. He’s hoping this might be a step towards some kind of justice and peace of mind.