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Rayman's story

In 2000, a magazine article Rayman chanced upon discussed the experiences of children who’d been sexually abused in institutions. Reading it brought a flood of memories of his own abuse at the hands of Superintendent Joseph Durham in the early 1960s. ‘It didn’t happen every night but when it did it was, I couldn’t put a word on it, you know. I knew it was wrong.’

Throughout his teens and adult life Rayman had put the abuse out of his mind but it manifested in other ways. He never watched television or read newspapers, fearing there’d be reports of children’s suffering or abuse. Until recently he’d avoided all contact with children because he read somewhere that if a person had been molested as a child they had a good chance of molesting someone else. ‘That stuck with me all my life. I never had a thought [of doing it], but I couldn’t touch a child.’

Rayman had always put distance between himself and other people, including partners and workmates. If a friendship started to develop in places of work, Rayman quit his job and moved on. With partners and girlfriends he felt embarrassed and ashamed, and his reticence to discuss his feelings stemmed in part from early attempts to disclose the abuse.

Durham threatened violence if Rayman told anyone what he was doing and when Rayman did tell a dormitory parent, he was beaten by that worker. ‘You didn’t say much because you either got moved on to another institution or you got bashed. Even now I find it difficult to tell people my feelings because I don’t want the embarrassment and I don’t want the hurt and wondering, “Do they believe me?”’

Rayman told the Commissioner that he was put to work and given no schooling in the six years he was at the orphanage. It was a business, he said, making money from farming operations. A few years after he arrived, Durham was gone, without notice or fanfare.

Orphanage files and documents subsequently found by Rayman had no record of Durham having been there. ‘I don’t know when he arrived or when he left. Being in a place like that, you never had a timeslot. You were just there and you were pushed around from point A to point B and if you didn’t do it, you got whacked. I know what people feel like in Alcatraz. You had no choice of your own, you couldn’t make a decision. Even at six I was intelligent, I don’t care what they say, I had a mind.’

In the late 1980s, Rayman disclosed the abuse to his mother who said it ‘was neither here nor there’. He found out his sister was also abused by Durham.

Rayman credited recent positive changes in his life to support received from a Victorian care agency and his partner of a year and a half, the first person he’d felt close to in all his life. ‘She has been a blessing … I don’t want to lose this lady, I really don’t.’

In the early 2010s, Rayman made a statement to Victoria Police which led to an investigation and further allegations about Durham from nearly 40 other people. At the time of him speaking to the Royal Commission, the matter was proceeding. He was also exploring civil options for compensation through a lawyer. ‘I used to get belted for telling my story. I was the first one in Victoria, but now more and more people are coming forward and that makes me feel better.’

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