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Walton Harold's story

‘No kid ridiculed or ostracised another for being a victim. We all knew it could happen to any one of us. It was only a matter of time.’

Walton’s father drank heavily and was ‘terribly violent’ towards him, his siblings, and particularly their mother – ‘because she would always say something to divert the violence to her’.

In the mid-1940s, when Walton was around 10 years old, welfare became involved and he was made a ward of the state. In court his father ‘said he didn’t want me, and they could take me as far as he was concerned’.

For the next couple of months he was placed in a reception centre, then moved to a Salvation Army boys’ home in the suburbs of Melbourne.

‘I soon learnt to be subservient to all things. Never question or challenge, and never complain nor accuse ... We feared every day and we feared more at night. For it was then, under semi-darkness, that one or more of us would be physically or sexually abused by a staff member.’

That at least one boy would be abused ‘seemed like a daily occurrence ... The lights would be turned off and loud music played over a loudspeaker. The music helped muffle the screams, the crying, and the pleading’. Even long after the music stopped ‘the screams echoed through the night’.

The boys would be told that if they complained they would be taken to a nearby mountain ‘to disappear and never be seen again’.

‘There were always stories that kids were taken to the mountain, killed, and then buried.’

It was usually the regular staff who would ‘have their way with a boy, or boys’, but sometimes a stranger would be with them and assault the boys too. After three months at the home ‘it was my time’.

Walton was raped by a staff member, Mr Harvey, on two occasions. The first instance happened after football practice, in the laundry where Walton had gone to wash his dirty clothes – ‘I knew he’d split me open’.

‘After it happened he [Harvey] had blood and poo on him, and he punched me unconscious and fractured my cheekbone. I lay among the dirty laundry until the following day when I ran to the dormitory and hid in my bed. In the 30 hours I was in the laundry I was not called to attend any muster. No one came near me, and no one bothered to check to see where I was ... It was as if all the staff knew what had happened but none did anything about it.’

Walton disclosed this assault to his mother when she came to visit the next week. ‘My eyes were blackened and my face was swollen. When she seen my injuries she asked me what happened, and I told her.’

His mother complained about the matter to a Lieutenant Marvin and also the colonel who headed the home. They accused her of being a liar and a troublemaker and banned her from the premises.

Next, his mother took her complaint to the head office of the Salvation Army. Again she was accused of lying and the ban on her visiting Walton was reinforced. She also wrote to the welfare department but never received a reply. Walton never saw her after this, as she had passed away by the time he was released from care.

A few weeks after the first incident Walton was raped by Harvey again. He was told this was a punishment for his earlier disclosure to his mother – ‘you are a squealer Walton, and I don’t like people who squeal’.

After this attack Walton ran away from the home. Soon he was picked up by police, who returned him. He tried to tell one of the police officers about the abuse from staff, however the officer misunderstood who had done this. ‘I told him I had been raped. He said something about not being surprised as there were some wild kids ... I tried to tell him it wasn’t a kid that did it.’

When he got back to the home he was beaten by the colonel and another officer, and told he had been ‘nothing but trouble’.

‘After the belting I was taken to an isolation cell and left there for nine days.’

Some six weeks later he was sexually assaulted by Lieutenant Marvin, after being taken from his dormitory to the officer’s room. ‘I was screaming and he told me that he would tape my mouth shut if I wasn’t quiet.’ Walton ran away again, and once more was returned.

The matron at the home also sexually abused Walton, forcing him to kiss, cuddle, and digitally penetrate another boy in her quarters.

By the time Walton left the home at 18 he was ‘full of hate’. He has spent a large amount of time in prison often preferring solitary confinement, so ‘no one can hurt me’. He has had difficulties maintaining intimate relationships throughout his life, and noted having difficulties with sex and intimacy as he thought sex was meant to be violent.

While he still finds it difficult to associate with anyone in uniform, he does not harbour any ill will towards the police or the Salvation Army. Even so, he feels uncomfortable when the Salvation Army visits the prison where he is currently incarcerated.

In his later years he has accessed some counselling and let go of some of the anger and hate that he carried for most of his life. ‘It’s not good to be filled with hate all the time, [it] doesn’t do you any good.’

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