Rodney grew up in Tasmania in the 1970s. He told the Commissioner that he had a ‘very transient’ childhood, as the family had to travel a lot to meet the demands of his father’s job. But other than that, it was a happy and stable family life.
When Rodney was about eight years old his family lived near the showground, and him and his friends would often play there and ride their bikes. One day Rodney was approached by ‘a man from the circus’ who ‘did something that wasn’t very nice’. At the time, Rodney didn’t understand what had happened, but realised later that it was sexual abuse.
Rodney didn’t tell anyone what had happened. He said, ‘I didn’t trust a lot of people from then’. He grew into a ‘shy and timid’ adolescent. In hindsight he believes this vulnerability is one of the reasons why, in his mid-teens, he was targeted by another abuser.
At that time, Rodney’s school organised for him to do work experience at a local army barracks. Sergeant Grant was Rodney’s supervisor. During the week, Grant offered Rodney cigarettes and army gear. He then started discussing masturbation and ‘dirty’ books. After that he groped Rodney, masturbated in front of him and tried to get Rodney to touch his genitals.
When the placement ended so did the abuse, but the following weekend Sergeant Grant rang Rodney and invited him to come round and watch videos. He declined.
Rodney said he was frightened of what people might think and so he kept the abuse to himself.
‘It’s hard for young people to express those sort of sensitive things because kids are cruel and can bully. Homosexuality and gay back in the 80s – you just didn’t talk about that stuff. Imagine going back to school and explaining what had just happened and being bullied as a kid.’
Then, in the early 90s, Rodney spoke to his partner about the abuse, and a short while later he talked it over with a counsellor and his mother. With their support he approached the police.
Rodney was disappointed with the experience and the outcome. He said he felt unsupported during and after his interview. In the end the police told him that they would not pursue the matter because too much time had lapsed since the abuse occurred.
Rodney wasn’t satisfied. He said, ‘I get quite strong and stubborn when I want to push something’. He contacted the Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General for the Defence Force. They gave him a similar line about the statute of limitations and the impossibility of prosecuting something that happened so long ago. They added that little could be done because, by then, his abuser was dead.
But Rodney was undeterred. He said that what he really wanted was for Defence and the education department to acknowledge what was done to him. So he contacted the department and asked it to provide records in relation to his work experience placement.
Rodney described their response as evasive. They didn’t return his calls and he had to chase them up. When he eventually got hold of someone, they said they had no record of his time at the barracks.
Despite these setbacks, Rodney remains determined. He said that he struggles everyday with the legacy of the abuse, but copes by staying optimistic.
‘You have to take a really bad situation and try to find something positive about it. And that’s the thing that pushes you forward for the next day.’