There is a pain in Russell’s chest that refuses to subside. In a written statement to the Royal Commission he explained it’s a symptom stemming from years of physical and emotional torment dating back to the 1970s, when he was 14 years old.
‘I was very involved in the … Uniting Church where my father was the minister, and I had a fair bit to do with the youth group. The youth leader, Roy, invited me and another person to his private place of business after church one Sunday. He asked us to take our clothes off, then he got me to lie face down on a photocopier and he photocopied my genitals.’
Sometime later, Russell and his family attended a barbecue at Roy’s house where Roy showed him some pornographic magazines depicting naked men. On a third occasion, Russell recalled, Roy asked him to stay back after a youth function to help pack up.
‘He got me to undress, then he undressed, and he put his mouth on my penis. I had an erection, I didn’t know what was happening and was scared and really nervous. He did this for about 10 minutes.’ Roy then rubbed himself against Russell ‘for a short time, then got up and told me to get dressed’.
Russell wrote in his statement that, as Roy was the youth leader, he assumed he was being ‘shown about growing up’. The last time Russell was abused, Roy had collected him from his parents’ place.
‘He asked if I could give him a hand with things down at the church. I was scared and didn’t really want to go, but Dad suggested it would be good for me to get out of the house. We went into the church and walked to the altar, and he asked me to give him oral sex. I said “No” and ran outside.’
Roy followed and asked Russell twice more to perform oral sex. When Russell refused, Roy agreed to drive him home.
‘I kept a distance from him after that, but it had a profound effect on me and my family.’
Russell described having difficulty over the years dealing with issues surrounding the sexual abuse. He married young and stood at the same altar where he’d been abused.
In the late 1990s, he attended a Christian course that unleashed a tide of long-suppressed emotions.
‘It was all about inner hurts and I burst out in tears and said I’d been sexually abused. Later I had a conversation with my wife, but was too embarrassed to say much. I went to the Uniting Church Complaints Tribunal and spoke to them about it, and was later told Roy had been stood down as youth leader and given counselling within the Church.’
Unhappy with the Church’s response to his complaint, Russell made a statement to the police in the late 1990s which led to Roy being charged. He said that Roy received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty.
Though he’s kept his Christian faith, Russell wrote, some aspects of his relationship with religion remain broken.