‘When I was about six, Mum and Dad split up due to abusive relationships between each other and Mum went on to have different boyfriends here and there. I was constantly getting in and out of trouble, basically just motorbike theft and smashing things and throwing rocks at trains and just carrying on like a fool, so that led to going in the boys’ home.’
At 11 years of age, Vic was sent to a government-run home in Melbourne. For the next five years, until the early 1980s, he was in and out of that home as well as several others. Another was also run by the government; one was overseen by the Methodists; and his worst experiences came in a home that was managed by the Salvation Army.
In the first home, Vic was forced ‘to perform oral sex and masturbate’ other boys as well as the staff.
‘This happened in the showers two to five times a week. I think I saw a psychiatrist a few times when I was in [the home]. However, I was too scared to tell them what was really going on for fear of more punishment and more abuse.’
For a brief time Vic was sent to a Methodist boys’ home, where he was raped and again forced to perform sex acts on other boys as well as staff. Then, at a Salvation Army home, he endured more physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
‘The memories at [the Salvation Army home] are shocking. I was raped and bashed and basically tortured. The Salvation Army officers just laughed about it. They used us boys like playthings and it still makes me very angry to this day.’
The Salvation Army officers often wore masks and, in cohort, would get boys drunk and then sexually assault them. On occasions men from outside the home were allowed entry and they too raped boys, including Vic.
‘There was also a farmer at the associated farm who raped me as well. For once, I fought back and beat him up. However, he and his son then really bashed me and I was put in the slot for what seemed like five to seven days.’
The slot was a small darkened room where boys would be stripped and imprisoned with only water and without mattress or blankets. Refusing to comply with officers’ sexual demands resulted in Vic spending a lot of time in the slot.
‘I tried to stay strong but in the end I just gave up so that I could get out, get some food and put some clothes on.’
After the boys’ homes Vic spent time in adult prison for theft and unlicensed driving ‘and all that sort of stuff’.
He was also incarcerated after sexually abusing a child. ‘I believed that these sexual offences were a normal thing. I realise now that I committed these offences because I was psychologically unwell due to the abuse that was perpetrated on me. I was very mixed up when I left and looking back now I am shocked at what I did.’
In his early 20s, Vic met Sally and they had two children. They separated after some years but have recently re-formed their relationship, although Vic still doesn’t have much contact with the children. Sally is ‘the go-between’.
Vic described the ongoing difficulty he has trusting people. He doesn’t have close friends and is aware that throughout his life he has often pushed people away. He has depression, anxiety and memory problems.
‘Sometimes I wish I was dead. I have low self-esteem, low self-confidence and low-self-worth. I have guilt that has built up over the years that shouldn’t be there, blaming myself for what happened and for letting what happened to me, happen. I tried to stop it but I just couldn’t.’
Until recently Vic hadn’t thought of reporting any of the offenders to police. His contact with law enforcement agencies had been largely adversarial over the years, but he was working with Sally to make a statement and report those offenders whose names he could recall. He was also in discussion with a legal firm about making a civil claim against the government of Victoria and the Salvation Army.
‘My time in the juvenile prison system was not a pleasant one. I would expect the children to be cared for and protected by the staff of those centres but instead I was exposed to years of sexual, mental and physical abuse. I do have suicidal thoughts thinking back on the rapes while at [the homes] by staff whilst in the care of the state of Victoria and the Salvation Army.’