‘I was basically raised from the age of seven in … the town football club gang … At the time, hooliganism was very big, and I was a bit of a tough nut … get into a lot of trouble.’
Owen and his family moved from England to Western Australia in the early 1980s.
‘My only goal … for coming here was to have a normal life, not the type of life I had in … England. But it seemed to follow me …
‘When I was 14 … we … broke into our friend’s house … We ended up being caught … and I was made a ward of the state … and was given community service … From there, I went pretty much downhill. Met the wrong sort of people, and was boosted high on their shoulders as a person who’d been like this all his life.
His drug use started to increase. ‘I’d been using drugs since I was a younger boy in England … One day … [I’d] taken some acid … and somehow got it into my head that it would be a good idea to rob a taxi driver.’
At 15, Owen was sent to a juvenile detention centre for an indefinite period. He began taking classes at the centre with Kate Armstrong, an attractive woman in her mid-30s.
Within a few days, Owen was the only student in her class. Kate began to groom him, chatting to him and letting him look down her blouse.
Kate put Owen on library duty and on ‘my first day in the library we were talking … and I asked her to dinner when I got out … and she said, “If I say yes, you can’t tell anybody about this”. She then pulled me between her legs’. Kate then instigated a sexual relationship with Owen that continued until several months after his release.
‘I was released six months after my 18th birthday, as long as my behaviour stayed as I was, which obviously was being reported as excellent, because the person reporting was having a sexual relationship with me.’ Owen moved in with Kate, and they planned to get married. Soon, Owen began to feel like a ‘sex toy’, and resented Kate referring to him as ‘an outcast, with brains’. He left her four months after he was released.
While Owen was living with Kate, an officer from the centre visited and she begged him not to report her. The officer shook Owen’s hand and said, ‘“Well, congratulations. I suppose the better man won” … I honestly thought it would have been brought up by him or … anyone else, but it hasn’t been’.
Owen told the Commissioner, ‘The fact that so many male … officers … could not have not known what was happening and just allowed it to continue … because, “The lady’s one of us” … I don’t believe the generation … that were in charge … saw it as such a bad thing … like what other people say, I was the lucky one … and she … was just a lady who I charmed, sort of thing’.
Owen only realised that he was a victim of sexual abuse after watching a documentary on the English entertainer, Jimmy Saville. ‘I knew it was a crime officially, because she’d always said … that if I told anybody … that it could ruin her life … It wasn’t until I heard … [the] victims saying that they felt like they were the … only person in the world that this happened to.’ These women were ‘saying everything that I thought, word for word.’
He told the Commissioner that he was prompted to do something about the abuse when he watched an episode of the cartoon, South Park, in which a character has sex with his kindergarten teacher. ‘And she was saying, “Oh, we love each other” … and when his older brother went to the police … [they] were saying, “Oh, he’s the luckiest boy in the world”.’
When Owen told his mother about the abuse, she said, ‘“Oh, you can’t complain about that. You got what you wanted” … and I tried to explain that I didn’t know what I wanted. I was a boy. Of course I wanted … a woman that’s secretly mine, sort of thing’.
The sexual abuse Owen experienced has had a negative impact on his adult life. He has suffered from depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He decided to talk to his doctor about the abuse once he realised that what Kate had done was a crime, and because of people’s reactions to a female perpetrator.
Owen was married for 15 years, ‘and put up with some quite horrific physical abuse and psychological abuse from my wife, who was a small lady but I can’t bring myself to hurt a lady. She … to the point of nearly killing me in front of my son … and that’s when we divorced’. He was given full custody of his son, but because he was a very over-protective father, their relationship is now strained.
Owen told the Commissioner that if someone had spoken up at the time, ‘it would have made a complete difference to my life, especially the 15 years of being beaten by my wife’. He believes that because his wife was aware of what happened to him, she knew that he wouldn’t report her.
‘Even when I’d gone to hospital with concussions and the likes … I’d say I’d hit my head on the cupboard, I’d tripped over the dog … that sort of thing. They could see it was obvious abuse, and it was put to me once or twice and I sort of denied it to protect [her].’
Owen was disappointed to discover that Kate continued to teach children for 20 years. ‘That’s when … this whole thing began … It’s a question of “Did anything else happen in those 20 years to anyone else after I left” … One of my greatest worries [is], “Did she move on to the next intellectual boy that was in the jail”?’