Stuart Louis's story

By the time Stuart was born in the early 1960s his siblings had all left home, and when he was very young, his father passed away. His mother then married an alcoholic and abusive man. Stuart witnessed his stepfather’s violence against his mother, and was also on the receiving end of it daily.

Sometimes his mother would leave the relationship, moving him to various places of accommodation, disrupting his schooling. She was also ‘in and out of psychiatric centres, and I would end up on the street most of the time. In those days you didn’t have a lot of support’.

In his mid-teens Stuart committed a minor offence, and found himself before the courts. He was made a ward of the state, and placed in an Anglican children’s home in Sydney. The environment was strict with severe punishments for even minor misdemeanours.

The manager of the home would make the boys learn the history of the Church after school – ‘why I don’t know. I wasn’t going to be a priest’. If they didn’t do the homework he set ‘he’d strip you down [to your underwear] and make you stand in a corridor for seven or eight hours ... Standing there with your hands behind your back’.

A different man took over at the centre after Stuart had ‘wagged school one day’ and gone into the city to tell the general manager of the Anglican children’s homes about this religious study and punishment.

The home had several properties and at first Stuart was placed in one run by houseparents June and Ed. He remembers that Ed often had younger boys in his bedroom after school, and in the mornings, would sit on their beds placing his hands over their genitals. One time when Stuart was scrubbing the floor as punishment June ‘walked over to me and pulled my head into her crotch’ which he now realises was sexual abuse.

Conditions were poor and overcrowded, and Stuart asked to move into one of the other residences. A theological student, Connor, was brought in as the adult in charge of this house. Connor was in his late 20s, and wore round glasses. ‘He forced me to give oral sex, and if I didn’t, he was going to tell the people in the home that I stole something and have me shipped out. And then afterwards I would scrub my skin off in the shower, and he would go out and buy pizza ... He would often walk past me in the dining room in front of other boys or whatever and try to fondle you up.’

Stuart tried to avoid making eye contact with Connor as a way of preventing further abuse, and would attempt to hide from him. He was also sexually abused by other boys living at the home.

During this time Stuart never saw a Youth and Community Services worker, even though they ‘were supposed to come and view us at the home ... We were told at the court that they would come to the boys’ home to see us. They never did. They probably only rang the manager up over the phone ... Had they come and checked on us in the homes, I think you’ll find that a lot of this stuff probably wouldn’t have happened. They would have been a lot more accountable’.

After running away to escape the abuse, Stuart ended up in a juvenile detention centre because ‘absconding’s a crime’. Whilst there he requested to meet with the new manager of the boys’ home, and he then reported the sexual abuse by Connor.

‘He just said that he [Connor] wouldn’t have anything to do with other children, and that he’d be moved on ... But the bit that really upsets me a lot now is that a lot of these people when they were moved on just hurt more people. Sometimes I think, I blame myself, I get real worried about that. I should have screamed louder.’

Stuart was sent to a training school, and then another youth detention facility. Although these places were prison-like, he preferred them to the home as he was not subjected to sexual abuse.

At 18, he was released and travelled around a bit, finding jobs where he would be working on his own. Despite attending high school, ‘I didn’t learn to read or write until I left the boys’ homes and went to night school’. It was hard for him to trust others, and he describes himself as a ‘loner’.

Stuart experiences nightmares and flashbacks. ‘Sometimes I still wake up in a real bad sweat. I’ll go and have a shower and just curl up in the shower for a couple of hours ... I don’t think about it all the time, but every day it comes across. I take medication to keep myself even.’

He had been in a couple of long-term relationships, the last of which ended acrimoniously. Realising his daughter might need counselling to deal with this separation, he arranged for her to see a child counsellor through an Anglican support service. ‘I wanted to make sure she was happy in herself ... I didn’t want her to have problems down the track.’

Thinking ‘well if she can go and talk to someone, I should too’, he began getting counselling himself, speaking about the abuse as an adult for the first time. He does not have to pay for this counselling, and being on a disability pension he would not be able to afford it if he did.

His counsellor facilitated his contact with the Royal Commission, and he shared his story to try and prevent children from being abused now. ‘I just want to protect other kids now ... It’s not about getting revenge for what was done to me. It’s not going to change it. I live with that all every day. It never goes away.’

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