Toby Simon's story

Toby was born in the mid-1940s in NSW. His parents were strict and would often brutally punish him.

‘Those days Dad … he used to go and pick a switch off the tree and get us across the bed, he used to belt us with a willow tree switch. And Mum, she used to belt us with the strap … I had to get out the window once and those windows were pretty high up and … I [tried to] run away two or three times.

‘I used to wag school a bit and used to pinch drinks from the shop. And I got caught a couple of times and I got punished for it and I was sent to the home. I was 11 or 12 then … That was a devastating thing for me.’

The home was a government-run boys’ home in regional NSW. Toby, who’d been made a ward of the state, found the culture violent and terrifying. He hadn’t been there long before he was sexually abused by the manager of the home.

‘He used to carry a stick and a whip, like a horse whip, and when he wanted you to do something he used to come up to the dormitory. Everyone used to be quiet because when he bashed your bed with the stick he meant you to get up and go downstairs.

‘He took me downstairs to the dressing room. He used to bend me over [the] seats. And he said if I said anything he would deny it and he would give me more time. And it wasn’t just me, it was other kids there too.

‘I remember once … I was that sore I couldn’t walk … After a while I used to let him do [it]. I didn’t fight him. Just, you’d go downstairs and go through the whole thing. I never used to fight him after a while.’

Toby’s schooling suffered.

‘He used to do it all the time [and] I lost interest in school. I couldn’t study because I was always thinking about coming in for the night … I did top the class though once.’

He was too scared to report the abuse.

‘Mum and Dad used to come and see me at the home once a month … I wanted to tell them but I couldn’t tell them because he always used to say, “If you say anything they’ll believe me, not you, and I’ll make it hard for you, you’ll have to stop here longer”. All I wanted to do was get out.

‘I was only young then and I didn’t know what would happen … so I just kept quiet.’

Toby knows that the director of the home knew about the abuse.

‘I remember … once I went to the supervisor’s house to give some wood and I was hungry and he was out and I took a can of peaches … I’m not a very good thief, I chucked the tin away … the supervisor found the tin and he came over and … that’s when I got the cane on the backside. That’s when he seen me bruising. He sent me to bed … I heard him have a bit of an argument [with the director] and about two, three weeks later I was [released].’

When he left the home Toby went back to live with his parents and found work out of the city.

He later struggled with his sexual identity. ‘I kept to the country because the city, I was scared of the city a lot. I kept in the country, country jobs, like truck driving. I kept to myself … I didn’t know if I was homosexual or not. I didn’t really have time for women after that.’

He married early as a way of seeking to confirm his heterosexuality. He told his wife what had happened to him and she was supportive but he refused to tell his medical practitioners or seek counselling.

Toby spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he is serving sentences for child sexual assault.

‘I didn’t want anyone to know what happened to me. I was [ashamed] … In those days I just didn’t know – the help wasn’t around, those days … I got trouble with my bowels … ever since. Can’t go to the toilet at times … It’s getting worse here.’

He has other mental health issues and difficulty sleeping.

‘My memory’s going a bit now … They say I’ve got memory loss. But what happened to me years ago I’ll never forget … In jail here, it’s all about raping someone and that scared me a lot. I tried to get my own room. I always get the bed against the wall. I always face that way. Even in the dining room I have the chair against the wall – I don’t want anyone getting [behind] me.

‘I don’t mix with the people here. I just go and have my meal and go back to my room … I just stay in my room … I wish I did have mates like other people have got.’

Toby received help from a psychiatrist outside jail and would like to access mental health services when he is released.

‘Maybe if I’d done my schooling properly, did get back to it, things’d be different … I didn’t think I’d ever [tell] but this time of life I do think about it more and more. When the police told me he [the abuser] died, it took a lot off me … but I wish he never did it. I still think about the things he done, what I could have done, what someone could have done to stop it.

‘I know now that if we were given support by someone to come around and check on us, it might not have happened. But no one come around.’

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