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Pedro's story

Pedro has had his day in court and seen his abuser plead guilty to numerous child sexual assault charges. The legal process has been devastating, however.

‘It’s been good’, Pedro told the Commissioner. ‘But definitely the last 15, 16 months have been [tough]. Without these guys [his wife and counsellor] and my kids I wouldn’t be here today talking to you.’

In the late 1970s 11-year-old Pedro was singled out by his scout leader, Ewan Gallagher. Gallagher befriended the boy and invited him on weekend sports trips. Gallagher was a popular and respected figure in the scout troop, and he went out of his way to befriend Pedro’s parents as well.

‘He blended into our family. He made himself one of us. He was at family functions. By the time I was 14, 15 there wasn’t a thing that he wasn’t at.’

For over three years Pedro saw Gallagher nearly every weekend and frequently stayed at his home. During every visit Pedro was abused. ‘The sexual abuse was mainly masturbation, but on numerous occasions as time progressed oral and anal sex occurred.’ Pedro estimates he was assaulted as many as 600 times over the years.

‘The abuse left me trapped between the real world and his world.’ Pedro did not know why he had been chosen and was confused about his sexuality. He was terrified of being labelled as gay amongst his peers and becoming a target for bashings.

Gallagher showered Pedro with attention and treats and bought small gifts for Pedro’s parents. ‘I was always afraid of being found out. He always instilled in me that what we had was special and forever, and all the good things he gave me in life would stop if I told anyone.’ Pedro did not tell.

The abuse did end when Pedro was 15. He believes Gallagher moved on to his next victim. Throughout his teens Pedro suffered with ‘regular suicidal thoughts, self-harm and a very explosive temper’. He struggled to achieve at school.

As an adult Pedro found he enjoyed work and threw himself into it. In his early 20s he was in a relationship and had a child to look after. This new responsibility brought his old memories and anxiety to the fore. He decided to disclose his history of abuse to his parents and his partner. Their support has helped him cope with the lifelong impact of the abuse.

‘I’ve been lucky. I’ve been open with most of my partners …

‘It’s always been there. It doesn’t go away. Every day there’s something that triggers in your head, whether it’s little things, big things, thoughts, something you see. It’s always there.’

Pedro and his family chose not to report Ewan Gallagher to the police back then as the law at that time included a statute of limitations. The law has changed in recent years and Gallagher was finally arrested on multiple charges. Police had asked Pedro to help with the case.

Pedro has nothing but praise for the detectives he worked with, but admits the process of telling his story in precise detail has been profoundly difficult. The wheels of justice have turned slowly, and for Pedro, agonisingly.

‘It’s just drawn out. The process is long and pretty arduous. Every day it’s there. You wake up it’s there. You go to sleep it’s there. In your dreams it’s there. Eighteen months of nothing else in your head but that.’

Pedro has suffered debilitating anxiety attacks while still trying to run his business. He has had to employ his son as a driver to ferry him around in case he needed to get to hospital suddenly.

Pedro is apprehensive about the sentence Gallagher will receive. ‘There was a huge fear in me at the start of the court process of what am I going to do if nothing happens? … What am I going to do if he goes to court – I’m only looking at the news – and he gets a sympathetic judge that puts him on home detention for three months? That makes everything I’ve just done worthless.’

Looking to the future, Pedro believes the criminal justice system needs to change, so that survivors can be confident their abusers will be punished adequately if they come forward with their story. He believes victims will not want to relive their traumatic histories if there is too much doubt over the outcome.

Pedro hopes the culture of the Scouting Association has already changed. He believes four out of five of the scout leaders he met as a boy had a sexual interest in children. ‘Looking back now as an adult I’d say it was pretty heavily entrenched there.’

Pedro is seeing a psychologist and is keen to recover from his recent setbacks. ‘I do believe in my heart once this is over I’ll get back to where I was. But I don’t know how long that’s going to take.’

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