‘Shame and embarrassment’ stopped Vincent from reporting the sexual abuse he endured for three years from the age of 14. He had joined a Melbourne Uniting Church youth group in the late 1970s, and recalled the leader becoming a trusted family friend. When Roger offered Vincent lawn-mowing work, Vincent didn’t see any reason to refuse.
‘Roger lived with his mother so I’d go up, but sometimes she wasn’t there. I can recall lying on the bed with Roger. He was a big man, at least 40 kilos heavier than me. He took my clothes off, and his clothes off as well.’
Roger then kissed Vincent, masturbated the two of them and ejaculated onto Vincent. ‘I felt powerless to stop him.’
Vincent believes he was sexually abused by Roger at least 20 times over three years. When the abuse stopped, he continued to have contact with Roger through the Church community, and when he married, Roger was invited to the wedding.
‘Roger continued to work with the Church, and I’m aware now that I wasn’t his only victim.’
In the 1990s, Vincent told his wife and parents about the abuse, and with their support, decided to take action.
‘I sent Roger a note and said what he’d done was wrong. We met and he said he was happy to help, but that I should realise he had no money. Those were the words I was left with. I wasn’t after money, I just wanted an apology.’
Four years later, Vincent reported the abuse to the Uniting Church and a meeting was arranged with three Church elders.
‘The meeting was held in good faith and the Church explained their internal processes for investigating, but said once the investigation had been carried out, it would no longer be possible for me to follow up with police. I didn’t feel the Church would solve the issue and opted not to pursue their enquiry. I went to the police.’
Roger was charged and Vincent was called to testify – twice. The first case resulted in a hung jury and at the end of the second trial, Roger was acquitted.
The greatest cost from Vincent’s perspective came on the personal front.
‘I’ve failed to reach my full potential. I have complete and utter resentment towards authority. As a kid you have to trust people in your life, and when that trust is taken away there’s not a lot left. When something so sinister has happened, it’s difficult to trust again.’
No compensation was offered by the Church, but Vincent has subsequently received some victims of crime compensation and is considering civil action.
He said he’s attended many counselling sessions over the years in an effort to overcome his feelings of shame.
‘What sort of man am I to have a relationship with another man? The abuse can never be erased, it’s a constant burden. The basis for the problems I’ve faced are due to Roger refusing to take responsibility for his actions. I’ve given him ample opportunity to apologise, but he hasn’t. There’s been a huge personal and family cost involved in seeking justice for a crime committed against me. The only thing that will help is for Roger to be held accountable for what he’s done.’