Zane was nine years old when he went on a class excursion from his regional Victorian school to a major city’s annual festival. The class travelled together on the train, accompanied by the teacher and a parent.
It was the early 1980s, and Zane was excited as excursions were always ‘good times for the kids’. At the festival, Zane and his friend Billy became separated from the group. Zane was offered an orange juice by a clown.
Accepting the drink, Zane entered a tent, which seemed to be the clowns’ rooms. He does not know if Billy was still with him at this stage, but thinks he may have been offered a drink too.
The clown then offered Zane an ice cream, which he appeared to be holding close to his body. Zane sensed that something wasn’t quite right, and felt uneasy.
He started to have some of the ice-cream then gasped and retched, exclaiming to the clown ‘there’s meat in it’. He saw that there was a ‘sausage’ in the ice-cream and was disgusted.
‘I thought this must have been one of their tricks or something.’ He now realises that the clown had concealed his penis inside the ice-cream.
After Zane gasped and almost vomited, the clown told him to lie down on a canvas bed. ‘I think they sedated me or something, because I had a bit of a nap.’ He remembers bright bursts of light, which he later realised could have been a camera flash.
‘After that, I went back outside, and we just continued.’ Zane didn’t think about this incident much until he was 15, and saw a news report about the famous Buttons and Bows clown duo on the television.
One of this pair, who had previously worked the festival every year, had been found guilty of sexual offences against a child and was not allowed to work there anymore.
Buttons and Bows were also connected to a popular ice-cream company at the time he was abused. It occurred to him that the clown who gave him the ice-cream may have been part of this duo, but he cannot be certain.
He told the Royal Commission he experienced further sexual violence in later years. This included being sexually abused in his home by a family friend, when he was in teens. Zane was also raped by another man when he was in his 30s.
He believes these later incidents were much more damaging than the abuse at the festival, due to the violence involved. When he told police about the last incidents, and pursued legal action, he did not inform them about the abuse by the clown.
Zane self-medicated with cannabis and alcohol, becoming reliant on both. He has accessed counselling in the past, but these days prefers to rely on the support of his friends. He also lives with physical health issues, which impact on his capacity to participate fully in activities he enjoys.
Zane did not tell anyone about the abuse by the clown until he contacted the Royal Commission. He spoke about this experiences as a way of ‘addressing my own past, and building a picture about what really goes on, and how these things can happen’.