Rainer’s parents migrated to Australia after World War II, and stayed for some years at a migrant accommodation centre in rural Victoria. Rainer explained that the purpose of such centres was to provide short-term accommodation for women and children while the men travelled the region in search of employment. Once the men were established with a job and a place to live, their families were sent to join them.
Migrant centres offered various amenities and services. The one where Rainer’s family lived provided a program of recreational activities for the children. It was managed by a recreation officer, Richard Hunter. ‘His role was to engage, you know, the youth, in sports, and camps and things like that’.
Rainer told the Commissioner, ‘He was the person that abused me and my younger brother, Max’.
Rainer was about five when the abuse began, in the early 1960s. He recalled Hunter playing with him one-on-one, and wrestling with him, sometimes in the nude. ‘And it escalated. Some of the things that he did was inserting I think knitting needles or something into his penis and ejaculating, and getting my active involvement.’
The abuse was ongoing, until the family left the centre to join Rainer’s father in country Victoria. Rainer was eight by then, his brother Max a few years younger.
One day soon after they’d arrived at their new home, Hunter turned up for a visit. He was a photography enthusiast and that day he took both boys separately into the bush to take some photos. ‘The abuse continued.’
Rainer couldn’t be sure if there were other visits. They may have been, he thought, but he couldn’t recall them in detail. However, he remembered that Hunter drove up to their house one day, and when Max saw the car he ran inside and told their mother what Hunter had done to him on that previous visit. She went outside to speak to Hunter and when the boys looked again, the car was gone. That’s when the abuse stopped, Rainer told the Commissioner – ‘the cat was out of the bag’.
Rainer’s mother didn’t report what had happened to her sons to police or anyone else. Looking back, Rainer understands why. The family situation was not good. Rainer’s father had become a ‘raging alcoholic’, who violently beat his wife. She couldn’t tell Rainer’s much older brother because, Rainer later realised, she feared he would end up in jail – ‘because he might have killed that guy’.
For their mother, the matter was over and she never discussed it with the two brothers. ‘And then that was the end of it, because she had other things to deal with … Life goes on.’
Rainer is close to 60 years old now, and ready to report Hunter himself. Hunter would be in his 80s and Rainer doesn’t know whether or not he’s still alive. He was, however definite that he wanted to follow up his session with the Commissioner by making a statement to police.
‘It’s time for me to tell my story – I want the police involved, because there may be somebody out there who hasn’t come forth … I’m interested to see if after an investigation if any charges can be brought to bear, if he’s still alive.
Depending on what the police find, Rainer would then consider taking legal action. ‘What I’d really, really love is somebody in the government authorities in Victoria saying sorry.’
Rainer’s brother Max has suffered from depression for much of his life. He has self-harmed, and has been an alcoholic.
There were different impacts in Rainer’s life. He had shy bladder, an uncomfortable and distressing condition that makes it difficult to urinate if others are present. He had a fear of adult authority figures. He had ‘no social skills’ and found it hard to form relationships with women. He immersed himself in books and became a serial academic achiever, gaining multiple degrees and diplomas.
‘I really withdrew. I hid in myself. I isolated myself into my world of books. I was building my wall round me, to say “Don’t look at the fearful little boy” ... I had to keep on the treadmill – go, go, go, go. Finished that thing. What’s the next thing?’
Rainer married and remained unhappily in the relationship for many years because he didn’t want to leave his children. He was ‘very controlling’ as a husband and as a parent. He raged at his kids, and imposed ‘iron fist’ discipline.
‘Not knowing how to be a parent, I just ruled by my emotions.’ He regrets this, but ‘I can’t turn the clock back’. He had a successful working life, yet without the promotions he knew he deserved.
‘What I now feel was happening to me was like there was this wall of darkness or shame or guilt holding me back. It gets back to feelings of self-worth, or being not deserving – worthlessness … That’s part of that legacy of the abuse. My emotional intelligence was in some ways stuck back in that period as a child.’
Rainer’s life changed when he finally left his wife and his home and moved interstate. In his early 50s then, he got involved with a men’s group. ‘I could see I needed some help.’ That led to participation in a program that used ‘psycho-drama’ and role-play as a counselling strategy.
‘I call that my turning point. When something switched.’ The program helped him examine his coping strategies – what was working and what wasn’t. As a result, he was able to get ‘some tools in place to make some massive changes in my behaviour’.
Rainer gets ‘get great satisfaction and a bit more healing each time I do [the program]. Talking from the heart, getting out of this bloody head …
‘I’m going to make my experience benefit others as well as myself – talk about it as objectively and unemotionally as I can. There’s got to be a little bit of emotion there but the heat has principally gone.’