Philip's story

Philip spent much of his early childhood at a Salvation Army children’s home in outer Melbourne. He was injured during bonfire night one year and for the next few weeks had to make regular trips to the infirmary where he encountered Walter, the Salvation Army officer who cared for the sick boys.

Philip told the Commissioner, ‘Every day I had to go in and get it changed and all of that sort of stuff, but every time we used to go in he used to make you take your pants off all the time, but there was no need for that because it was down low enough’.

Walter began to grope and harass Philip and some of the other boys.

‘If he got close to you or something like that he used to grab you and give you a kiss on the head or give you a bit of a tap on the bum, stuff like that … A lot of the time we couldn’t stop it because he’d just keep at you and at you and at you all the time.’

Eventually Walter’s behaviour escalated to more serious sexual abuse.

‘Twice he penetrated on me. Once when I was in bed asleep. He woke me up. He was already doing his deed. Scared the living shit out of me the first time. Didn’t know what to do. I just pretended I was asleep.’

Philip reported the abuse to the Brigadier who was in charge of the home.

‘I told him that he was a dirty old man, he used to try and touch us up and all that sort of stuff, but I don’t know – nothing was done about it because he just kept on trying.’

After that Philip decided to take matters into his own hands.

‘I smacked him with a hammer and he never touched me again.’

That incident caught the attention of the Brigadier and other officers, but no one reported it to police.

‘I was told I was going to stay in the home for longer, because I insulted him and all that sort of stuff, but no police came, nothing was ever said … I never had a police report, or I never talked to a policeman or anybody else. Everybody knew why I’d done it. Why I’d done it for. Everybody knew. That was the thing around the whole home. Like I said, it wasn’t only me.’

Philip left the home in his early teens. By then his experiences had made a lasting impact.

‘I’ve got an angry chip on my shoulder, I’ve had it for years ... I’ve had counselling, I’ve been to psychiatrists, I lost my marbles there for a while, I’ve been up there in a lunatic place, what you call it, psychiatric ward. I’ve been in and out of them. I try to forget things. I don’t know, it just pisses me off.’

Philip’s anger issues led him to violence and trouble with the police. Over the years his marriage and other long-term relationships have suffered, but he’s managed to maintain a good relationship with his children and is very protective of them.

Philip is not afraid to tell his story, but feels conflicted about whether it’s worth his while.

‘Nothing will ever make it feel any better. It’s out of the woodwork now. I probably won’t be able to forget this for a long time. I thought it was all buried and gone. In some places I think I’m silly for opening my mouth but other times I think, well, what the hell … but now everything’s brought it back up and back out and I’m having a lot of trouble coping with it now. I remember a lot of things I don’t want to remember.’

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