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Roger Timothy's story

‘For many years I couldn’t remember the name or face of the perpetrator. I could just remember a body with no head.’

Roger was a ‘naughty’ 11 year old who started stealing when he was sent to a government children’s home in regional Tasmania in the 1970s. Conditions in the home were cruel, with insufficient nutrition and hard manual labour, and the boys were made to fight in boxing matches against each other too.

‘We were often punished by being sent outside at 5am in the freezing cold, rain or hail to pick carrots, potatoes etc. We were made to scrub floor tiles with a toothbrush as another form of punishment.’

When Roger was in his early teens, one of the staff, John Reddy, began sexually abusing him.

‘Mr Reddy would sort of wake you by talking to you. He would suck your toes, kiss up and down your legs, kiss your penis, suck your penis then turn you over and try to penetrate your anus. After it happened once, I knew what was going to happen when he sat on the end of my bed. He would try to get you into his room, initially by asking then ordering if necessary. He tried all the boys. I can still feel that feeling of his bristly beard on my skin. It got so I didn’t really want to go to bed.’

This abuse happened four or five times over the course of a year. ‘I didn’t say anything to anyone at the time. I just didn’t want to tell anyone. It’s just something you wanted to keep to yourself.’

Roger believes Reddy also abused a number of other boys, and that the cook, Mrs Blake, and one of the other carers knew what was happening. He remembers Mrs Blake telling Reddy ‘to keep away from the boys’ but the abuse continued.

Some of the older boys were aware of the abuse, and advised Roger to stand up for himself. When he did so Reddy stopped sexually abusing him although ‘he picked on me more I suppose’.

Roger told the Commissioner that he lives with severe depression, and has been on the disability pension for the past two decades. He feels that his personality changed after the abuse, and has had periods of homelessness and incarceration. ‘At least in jail I was guaranteed of shelter and food.’

At the home he learned to drink ‘methylated spirits and orange ... I continued my drinking into adulthood which led to alcoholism ... If drugs were around I would take them too, it didn’t matter what they were. Alcohol and drugs made me feel good and it was a way to escape for a while’.

Roger managed to give up drinking many years ago now so he could look after his daughter, but still experiences numerous other impacts.

‘I don’t sleep well, usually only four hours per night and sometimes isolate myself for weeks at a time because I can only tolerate being around people for a short while.

‘Reading about sexual abuse in the paper or hearing it on the television acts as a reminder and brings back the memories of the child sexual abuse that happened to me ... This can be a trigger for traumatic memories which can lead to me feeling depressed and sitting in the chair for days.’

His relationships with partners and family have been affected as well. ‘I wouldn’t speak to my wife or girlfriends and found it very difficult to share what I was thinking and feeling. I would get depressed and wouldn’t speak for days. I don’t really want to meet people or spend a lot of time in other people’s company. Even when I visit my mother I don’t stay long because I can only handle people for a short time.’

As yet he has not made a report to police about the abuse by Reddy. In the early 2000s Roger received a financial payment from the state redress scheme, which he used to buy a home so he had some security. He wasn’t impressed by the premier’s letter he received with the compensation however – ‘I’m a bit slow but I know what sincere is’.

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