Pieter's story

Pieter comes from a loving Aboriginal family in Queensland. His real father died just before he was born in the early 1970s. His mother remarried when Pieter was two and so he was raised by his mother and stepfather, whom he idolised. He was quite shy as a youngster and struggled socially at school. He did love camping and the outdoors though, so his parents decided to send 10-year-old Pieter to the local scouts group.

Here he met the scoutmaster Mr Ward, who was well-known and liked - ‘a pillar of the community’ in fact. Ward began to groom and then sexually abuse Pieter, reassuring him that his stepfather had said it was okay.

Pieter thought he had no choice but to let it happen. But as the abuse went on he began to resent his stepdad, who had apparently approved of it. ‘I hated him. I had plans on killing him.’ At the same time he thought the abuse was normal, even though he didn’t like it. He was ultimately too confused and ashamed to talk to his parents.

Pieter changed from being a gentle shy boy to being angry, aggressive and out of control, ‘bitter and twisted’. It ended up destroying his family altogether.

His anti-social behaviour landed him in first one boys’ home where he was abused by staff, then another home, Boystown, where he was abused by one of the Brothers. It wasn’t until he was about 15 that Pieter realised ‘that this stuff just isn’t normal’ even though it was going on around him. He saw signs in other boys’ behaviour that they were being abused as well. ‘I must admit I was part of the prolificness amongst the boys … I’m not gay but I thought that that was normal.’

The impact on Pieter as an adult has been huge. He went on to commit sex crimes himself and is currently in prison. He didn’t disclose his own abuse to anyone for years. He only confided in a girlfriend, who was wondering how someone who could be so compassionate could suddenly turn and become bitter and cold.

‘It was just me … trying to process all my own crap and drinkin’ all the time and drugs.’ The girlfriend was very supportive but Pieter took no further action at the time.

How did he keep it bottled up? ‘Lots of alcohol.’ Pieter also self-harmed. Finally, a few years ago, his guilt about his own sex offences made him come forward. Pieter reported Ward and he was charged and pleaded guilty. However the court only gave Ward, who was quite ill, a two-year good behaviour bond.

‘I was made to feel insignificant and like his health ... is more important than what he’s done. People are dying in jail for a lot less.’

However the scoutmaster did later end up being convicted for sexual abuse. Pieter happened to be in the same jail for his own sex offences. ‘If it wasn’t for a couple of my friends I probably would have killed him.’

A group of boys recently prosecuted the Brother who abused Pieter in Boystown. There wasn’t enough evidence for Pieter to proceed with his own case but the police told him they were very confident of securing a conviction through the other complainants. 

In terms of his own sexual offending, Pieter says, ‘I only acted out of desperation and not educated enough in dealing with my own abuse … I wanted the power back of what I’d lost’.

So what’s been the biggest impact of the abuse? ‘I’ve destroyed other people’s lives. I could say my family but no ... I’ve destroyed two people’s lives and their families … I struggle to live with it every day.’

Pieter is slowly rebuilding his relationship with his stepfather. His family know about the abuse now and they are furious at what happened.

He’s sure no one would have believed him when he was a child and probably would have said he ‘misread the circumstances … But I knew. Your gut tells you the truth every time’.

After Pieter disclosed his abuse, he wasn’t offered any counselling or told about victims compensation. He is keen to get counselling, however, because he gets suicidal. Smoking marijuana puts him at peace. ‘I can face the world on it.’ But not alcohol. It makes things worse.

People need to be open to hearing cases, Pieter told the Commissioner. ‘If a child comes up to them and says “So-and-so touched me here” … don’t crush the child … Children don’t lie. They don’t know what a lie is.

‘The world has to be cleansed of this crap … Children are innocent and need to be left alone … We hear a lot of stuff about melanoma … about cancers. But this is a cancer as well. This destroys lives.’

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