Wilbur was seven years old when he lived in a Catholic children’s home in New South Wales. It was the late 1960s and his parents were in the process of separating. Due to this family instability, he and his brother were sent into care for a year or so.
One day he was playing football in the home’s grounds with the other kids. At the end of the game he needed to use the toilet, but struggled to get his overalls unclipped. A man he knew as Greg, who worked on the grounds of the home, came in and offered to help him. He undid Wilbur’s clothes, and held Wilbur’s penis while he urinated.
‘I finished and he said “I helped you, now you help me”. He took hold of my wrist and place my hand on his exposed penis. He enveloped my hand with his and began masturbating.’
He then pushed Wilbur into a toilet cubical and forced him to perform oral sex.
‘I remember the mix of odours of toilets, male perspiration and Old Spice aftershave (my father also wore it). Everything seemed to be happening so slow and I was scared and crying tears.’
Greg ejaculated into Wilbur’s mouth, and instructed him to wash himself. A nun came up and asked what was wrong, as Wilbur was very upset.
Although Greg said Wilbur had fallen over playing footy, Wilbur pointed at Greg and told the nun ‘he put his dickie in my mouth’. The Sister spoke with Greg, and Wilbur was sent off to shower. He doesn’t know if anything more came of this matter.
Wilbur was also sexually assaulted by another man, Merv, who used to come to the home over the weekend. He thought Merv was the father of one of the boys living there, so he trusted him a little.
One day Merv tricked Wilbur into coming and sitting in his car at the front of the home, saying he would share his sherbet with him. He instructed Wilbur to close his eyes.
‘I didn't know at the time but his penis was poking through into the bag covered in sherbet. He had my licking the sherbet from his penis. What was a fun game was really another perverted sexual assault on me.’
After this incident, Wilbur stopped eating sweets.
Wilbur remembers the kids at the home talking about several men, using the terms ‘fiddle’ and ‘poofter’. This included Merv and Greg, and also a Brother who worked there and who was said to have ‘wandering hands’.
They warned each other not to go to the boatshed, the football, or Luna Park with any of these men. Wilbur tried to protect his brother at night by sleeping with his hand on him.
One of the other nuns was particularly kind to Wilbur. He believes she may have worked out he had been abused, but she died while he was living at the home. The Sister in charge was not at all approachable, since she used to line all the boys up naked and slap them while they waited for their showers.
Wilbur and his brother returned to live with their dad, but Wilbur was too afraid of him to speak about what had happened. He disclosed the abuse to his mother, who died a couple of years later.
As a result of the abuse, Wilbur was ‘petrified’ of sex as a teenager. He continues to have trouble relating to other people. ‘I’m good with people across the desk, but I’m terrible with intimacy.’
Wilbur failed his final exams at high school, got into trouble with police, and used to get into ‘bad fights’ on the football field. For a while he drank heavily, and he lives with anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares. ‘I had issues raising kids in my first marriage. Things bubbled to the surface that had been suppressed all these years.’
Even today, he has a ‘major phobia about toilets. I always use cubicles ... I just hold off. I know my coffee shop, where I can get my coffee and use a cleaner toilet, that sort of thing’.
Despite all of these impacts, Wilbur went back to study as a mature aged student, and now has a well-paid job in his chosen field. After engaging in counselling for over 15 years, which cost him a lot of money, he better understands the ways the abuse has affected him.
‘I thought it was me, I thought, what’s wrong with me? I can’t keep a marriage together, I can’t keep a relationship together, I’ve got issues at work ... With age should come some wisdom, and with wisdom I’ve reflected to put it down to this.’
Wilbur has remarried, and tries to make sure his youngest child has the best of everything. ‘It took me a long time, but I’ve achieved the things I wanted to in life. But the important things, that meant so much to me – I regarded myself as a failure as a dad and as a husband.’
Aside from therapy, Wilbur found his ‘saving grace’ playing music and participating in sport. He channels his rage and negative energy into martial arts. ‘It’s better it’s confined there in a combat sport, than being dysfunctional in society.’