‘It destroys lives. It destroyed mine. Totally destroyed it. It destroyed my careers. I would knock back promotions. I would knock back courses that would get me somewhere. I would knock back awards … because I didn’t feel I deserved them. Why? Because I don’t deserve anything.’
Tyrone had always wanted to join the defence forces. In the early 1980s when he was 15 years old, he joined the navy with the dream of being a submariner. He found the environment of his training base challenging but rewarding.
‘There was a lot of bastardisation that went on, of course, but that was never a problem to me. I just figured that was part and parcel of the job … They call you names, terrible nicknames … You’d be called useless, sworn at all the time.
‘Having said that there was also a lot of bashings, “trout bashings” … boots in a pillowcase. There was a lot of that went on. And that was done by your fellow peers, so the same age … They’d roam round in groups and come round and trout bash you. “Nuggeting” was another, where they cover your bollocks in boot polish.’
Soon though, Tyrone witnessed sexualised competitions between the other recruits and suffered brutal sexual abuse himself. He was gang raped by a number of other recruits six times over the course of the nine months he spent at the base. His rapists used implements including toilet brushes. He still finds it extremely distressing to talk about his abuse and has never fully revealed the extent of his abuse.
He didn’t report the men at the time because he believed he would then be even more targeted for attack.
After he completed his training he was transferred interstate to another naval base to begin his service. At this base he was raped in the same way but by much older men. He had just turned 17 years old.
After one occasion of abuse he reported his attackers.
‘I reported that to the Petty Officer Steward and the Warrant Officer RAN Steward. They sent me to see the Naval Police Coxswains (NPC) … The NPCs told me, “It’s not a naval matter; go to the civvy police”.’
He went to the police who told him ‘It’s not our problem, it’s a naval matter’. He went back to the naval police.
‘They pulled out the notes they’d previously taken … screwed them up, threw them in the bin.’
He believes that the NPCs all knew who the main perpetrator of his abuse was and that they protected him.
‘I gave them names … This person [main perpetrator] had done it time and time and time again. They knew.’
He left the navy that same year as a 17-year-old. When he was discharged the navy asked why he was leaving.
‘I had already been threatened that if I reported it (1) I wouldn’t be believed (2) if anything started happening because I reported it I’d be thrown overboard … or  they would somehow ruin my career. I can’t remember the reason I gave for decommissioning but it wasn’t the real reason.’
He joined the army and continued serving his country. After a number of years, he started to have nightmares and flashbacks to his abuse and his general behaviour became difficult for his section to manage. He disclosed his prior sexual abuse to his senior officer but believes that instead of helping him, they just wanted him out of the service. He was given a medical discharge.
‘I didn’t want to get out but neither were they offering me any help. As soon as they knew what the problem was they didn’t want to do anything. This is the problem. They wouldn’t help. It’s bad enough it happened, it’s bad enough you then get treated the way you are, fobbed off … sweep it under the bloody carpet, but then not give you any help and tell you, it’s your fault: “You did something to deserve it”. Who deserves it?’
He didn’t tell anyone else about his abuse for 20 years.
‘I never dealt with it. I just drank.’
About eight years ago he experienced a ‘massive breakdown’. His marriage ended and he spent time in a psychiatric hospital. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety stemming from the sexual abuse.
‘Once I found out that I had PTSD it was a relief to me that “Oh, hang on a minute, I’ve got a proper problem, I’m not just a fuckwit”.’
His abuse has been recently investigated through a Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) investigation.
‘I saw it as somebody finally listen[ing] to what happened … and it not be swept under the carpet … [that] certainly hasn’t happened with me. I ended up in jail and I’m sort of “That’s it, let’s wash our hands of him again”.’
He did receive an ex gratia payment from the defence force but this depressed him further. After receiving the money, and under the influence of alcohol, he attempted to take his own life.
‘This happened in the navy and it was reported to navy, who just covered it up. Then in the army, I reported it again … [I] lose my career, because why? Because of what happened to me. I could have served … 40 years … and I lost all that. All of it.’
He completed a PTSD program a number of years ago and this helped him. He takes medication for his PTSD and associated issues and has a deep distrust of authorities, including police.
He also has anger issues and would fight anyone who threatened him in any way. He now feels that this self-preservation response has landed him in jail for an extended sentence with limited options for appeal. He believes that the custodial sentences sex offenders receive are too short.
‘This [trauma from abuse] goes on until the day you die and these people get away with it and they’ll do it again and again and again and again … It never goes away.’