Seb's story

Seb was an infant when he was placed into foster care, and doesn’t know if he lived with his parents prior to this. For the first few years of his life he and his sister were separated from their other siblings, and moved from institution to institution.

In the mid-1960s, when Seb was six, the New South Wales Department of Community Services placed him and his sister in foster care with the Andersons. His foster father, Carl, often had his own brother Sam over at the house.

One afternoon when Mrs Anderson was away, Seb was left alone with Carl and Sam. Carl had Seb in one room, and Sam had Seb’s sister in another room.

This was the first time Seb remembers being sexually abused. ‘I got down on my hands and knees … I lowered my shoulders and head to the ground, so I knew what I had to do. Someone [had] obviously shown me how to do that.’

Seb was sexually abused by Carl and Sam several times over an eight year period. He also witnessed Carl sexually abusing another child that lived on the same street as the Andersons. This girl was Seb’s best friend.

Carl and Sam both forced Seb and this girl to have sex with each other numerous times. ‘I thought it was normal behaviour … It was nice to be with my best friend but it was wrong. That should have been saved for adulthood and my wife.’

At school Seb was confused and socially dysfunctional. He struggled to understand concepts like politeness and manners, spoke out in class, and couldn’t concentrate. He just couldn’t stop talking, and often wet his pants.

Seb also told the boys in his class how to have sex, which got him into trouble. He was sent to a child psychologist who noted down his actions but nothing was investigated. As an adult looking back, Seb can’t understand why no one did anything further to question his behaviour.

For a period of three years, Seb and his sister were moved from children’s homes to other foster carers, and back with the Andersons. He is unsure of the chronology but can remember being moved around over 15 times in his childhood, and found these constant relocations exhausting and stressful.

When Seb was eight, he was moved to a state boys’ home. Here, Seb and the other boys were mistreated: whenever a boy fell sick, he was given aspirin instead of treatment. The staff also let anyone and everyone come in on weekends and take the boys out on unsupervised trips.

Seb remembers being woken up at dawn by the workers to have cold showers. The bathrooms were huge and open, which allowed the staff to watch the boys. He was very uncomfortable with this.

‘As long as it took to have a shower they’d stand there and watch us. That was confusing … You couldn’t put it into words as a child but you felt like an object.’

Several months later, Seb was moved to another home. He remembers being sexually abused and hit with belts numerous times by the workers there.

When Seb was nine his biological father collected him and brought him to the family home. He was reunited with his siblings, which was very exciting. His mother was mentally unstable however, and often violent. Seb was then placed back in the boys’ home for a short while before returning to the Andersons.

Seb was 10 when he was discharged from foster care, and returned home to his family again. Being with them again was disorienting but Seb was glad that he and his siblings got along, and helped each other through their mother’s behaviour.

He never told anyone about the abuse he experienced, neither did his siblings. ‘We were all fostered and we never spoke about it.’

When Seb was in his 30s he had a mental breakdown, after years of low self-esteem and fear of failure. He dropped out of his university studies, and suicidal thoughts became overwhelming so he decided to seek professional help. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression. He hasn’t been employed for many years, but does charity work. After finding solace in the church he was able to forgive his perpetrators.

Seb first disclosed the details of his abuse to his psychiatrist and then told his wife. He also told his family about what happened. He has since read his department file and found this very confronting. He has not reported his perpetrators to the police, but has engaged with lawyers for assistance applying for victims of crime compensation.

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