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Walter Louis's story

Walter and his siblings grew up in Victoria in the mid-1950s. He told the Commissioner that when he was 12 years old, ‘My father was out of control, and a drinker and was going off the rails and would take it out on us, but mainly me’. Walter wasn’t coping with his father’s behaviour and started getting into trouble, so he was prescribed medication ‘which I hated … it made me feel terrible’.

When Walter stopped taking his medication he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. ‘I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t want to be in a mental home … I walked in and there’s all these people just walking around drugged out and sitting in chairs and rocking and I couldn’t believe I was going in there.’ Between the ages of 12 and 14 Walter spent two periods of several months in this adult institution.

When Walter tried to refuse his medication, ‘blokes in white overalls and black boots would come at me and would like really brutally … I was held down, get injections, get knocked out … I’d feel something going in me backside and it’d get worse and worse and I’d just fade out … I’d have a really, really sore backside and there was blood on my underpants, and I complained … and they would just always say, “Oh, you just had a suppository”, but I’d had a suppository before and it was no suppository. They just didn’t take any notice’.

Walter told the Commissioner his memory is vague, but he is certain he had shock therapy at the hospital. ‘There’s big gaps of time I just don’t remember … vague … I was in a straightjacket and I was struggling, and I can still remember the feel of the straightjacket.’

Walter’s mother died when he was 16, and he started getting into trouble with the police. Eventually, he was sent to live at a boys’ home run by the Methodist Church. ‘It was a cruel, cruel place.’ The staff ‘were really nasty to me. Just say things. Really sexual things and that … just horrible. Just insult me and things like that’. Even though he had a counsellor at the home, who ‘was lovely’, he didn’t say a lot to her because ‘I was worried about getting into more trouble’.

Walter used to sleepwalk and recalls wrecking his room at the boys’ home, and urinating in a locker that he thought was a toilet. ‘I was totally sleepwalking. I had no idea. But Mr Johnson came out … and used my head like a speed ball … my head was just going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards … really hard closed-fist hits … that was really distressing. I think that was the second day that I was in there.’

Walter was attacked by other boys at the home, with baseball bats, chains, and a knife. He never reported the attacks, for fear of retribution. He told the Commissioner he was very depressed while in the home. ‘I remember thinkin’ I’d rather get me leg cut off if I could get out of there … I just wanted to get out. I was just so distressed the whole time I was there … they kept … I just wasn’t coping … absolutely terrible.’

Walter developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) while at the home, and this has had a significant impact on his adult life. ‘I had no control. I couldn’t sort of fight it.’ It took a long time for Walter to be treated for his OCD. It was only when he saw a program about it on television that he thought, ‘That’s what I’ve got, and I just broke down in tears. I thought I was the only one in the world with OCD’.

At 17 Walter went to live with Mr Towns, who said he intended to adopt him. Whenever they were in his car, Mr Towns would put his hand on Walter’s knee. At first, Walter thought that this was just ‘old people, just being friendly sort of thing’.

Mr Towns set up a folding bed for Walter in his bedroom, which Walter thought was strange. ‘I didn’t want to sleep in his room.’ Walter told the Commissioner, ‘It’s gone in my report that I was manipulating him. He was sexually abusing me. He was manipulating me. Being really aggressive. I’d wake up in the night … his hand on my penis, trying to fondle me and I’d ask him to stop and he’d stop, but he just kept doing it’.

Walter never reported Mr Towns to the police. ‘Should have … I guess … I don’t know why I didn’t now. I was just so distressed about everything. Everywhere I went I was suffering some sort of abuse.’

Walter recalls trying to slit his wrists with broken glass while he was in the boys’ home. As an adult, he has also been suicidal at times. ‘Years ago, I had the shotgun and I actually put the shotgun in me mouth and I was going to, I was really going to. I couldn’t stand it anymore. But I put me dogs in the yard and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t do it because of me dogs.’

Walter told the Commissioner, ‘I just haven’t had real happiness in my life at all. I’ve just never been happy. I just want some happiness in my life … I just feel so damaged by all that’s happened to me and … I just hope that my life can improve. I don’t want to be miserable all my life … find some peace and get some help’.

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