Roddy Mark's story

Roddy’s parents sent him to a scout troop in suburban Melbourne in the early 1970s. ‘I was never really keen to go to scouts but I wasn’t very well socialised so Mum and Dad thought it would be a very good idea, and I wasn’t good at sport so they went for that ... They had my best intentions at heart.’

Despite his initial reluctance, ‘it turned out to be much better than I anticipated’. When he was around nine years old they got a new scout leader, Bob Peters. The boys immediately liked Peters, who was very charismatic, provided computer games and told them lots of exciting stories about his time in the scouting movement.

Peters helped Roddy gain his merit badges, and this increased his confidence and made him feel important and special. One time when Roddy was in a private room being tested by Peters for a particular badge, he got many of the answers wrong. The leader let him pass anyway. Roddy was surprised and gratefully accepted the badge, then went to leave the room.

Peters told him there was ‘one more thing’ he needed to do – to close his eyes and turn around. Roddy did not want to do this but eventually gave in.

Immediately Peters ‘snaked around’ with his hand, grabbing Roddy’s genitals. Roddy was ‘completely taken aback’ and uncertain as to why Peters had done this, and felt ‘generally violated’. Peters attempted to calm him down and would not let him return to the main hall until he had.

‘It freaked me out doubly because I didn’t want to go [to scouts] in the first place, and then having finally lowered my guard, when I was absolutely trusting of this figure, then for that to occur it just rocked me on so many levels. It was like being electrocuted.’

From then on, Roddy just remembers proudly showing off his new badge to his parents and peers. Peters also allowed Roddy to attain another award he had not fully earned, which ‘elated me’ but upset a lot of the other boys.

When a camp was announced Roddy did not want to go as he feared another attack by Peters. He convinced his parents not to send him, but would not give any reason when they asked why he didn’t want to go.

One afternoon a fortnight later, Peters came to Roddy’s home, saying how disappointed he was that Roddy would not be attending the camp, and how much fun he would miss out on. Roddy went up to his bedroom and left Peters alone to speak with his parents. After a while he heard the leader coming down the corridor and entering his room, and again stated he would not go to the camp.

Peters then initiated a ‘play fight’, pinning Roddy down on the bed and succeeding in grabbing his genitals again. He left a short while later. Roddy had dinner with his parents, who commented that they had found Peters to be ‘a very pleasant young man’.

Roddy left the scouting movement soon after. In the years following this incident he had a recurring nightmare which entailed his genitals being squeezed by an opponent. ‘Ever since the abuse I’ve just been so twitchy, and you know, I have to sit in corners, I can’t sit near doors.’

A few years after he left the scouts he disclosed the abuse to his parents. A young relative of theirs had been sexually abused and they were discussing this, saying that they had never noticed any change in the child. ‘That’s when I said “Well, just because you didn’t notice anything wrong doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”.’

They asked what he meant, ‘and they were just so dismissive. It was at that moment – I think I was a teenager at this stage – I said “Did you know that I was interfered with by the scoutmaster ... while you were in the house, did you know that?”’

After commenting that he should have said something at the time, his parents ‘just went on to the next thing’ without even checking if he was okay. The matter was never mentioned again.

In his 20s Roddy sought psychological support for some issues he was having with his relationship, and disclosed the abuse. After trying numerous psychologists he has been seeing his current therapist ‘for years’.

Roddy has also ‘tried to free my mind by writing it out’. ‘Alas, it continues to eat away at me even after 40 years ... I still feel angry, violated, fearful, isolated and damaged.’

In the 90s Roddy heard about a police campaign against child sexual abuse, and decided to report the abuse. The officers he dealt with were very good and conducted a thorough investigation, but as they were unable to locate any other complainants no charges were laid. Knowing Peters was questioned is of some comfort as he ‘at least got a warning’.

Roddy believes Peters probably also molested other boys. ‘I didn’t feel so special, that I was the only one.’ He wishes they would come forward so as to strengthen the case, but ‘I can’t be cross at them’ for not doing so.

A few years ago he wrote to the Scouts outlining the abuse and his report to police ‘but got short shrift’.

‘I can’t remember the exact reply, but it was something along the lines of, you know, “This is a matter for the police, you go to them”. And I felt a bit miffed by this because I already had gone to the police, and I had this report ... I found the response to be so curt and dismissive ... It was just “you’re barking up the wrong tree, if you’ve got a problem call the cops”. So I felt quite discouraged by that.

‘I’d like them to write to me and say, “Sorry about before, we’ve read your report and we’ve read your story, and we now see how upset you are, and we’re sorry”.’

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