Surviving child sex abuse: A personal story

Child sexual abuse affects more than 60,000 people each year. Donny
was one of those impacted. NITV News shares his story on the 20th
anniversary of White Balloon Day in hopes to raise awareness for the
protection of our children.
8 Sep 2016 – 6:14 PM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 6:17 PM
9 September marks the 20th annual White Balloon Day, one of Australia’s biggest child protection awareness days held by Bravehearts child protection organisation.
break the silence

The pain of his past caught up with Donny* when he hit his mid-30s.

Donny’s mother died in 1955 when he was only 12 months old and after
that he was sent to a mission run by the Lutheran Church in a regional
area, just 30 kilometres from his father’s home.

But in all his 16 years there Donny only ever saw his father twice,
and he said that starvation and beatings were commonly used as
punishment and deterrent tactics.

“It was difficult because we didn’t have anyone to go to, we didn’t
know where our parents were but were told never to cry out for them.
There was no love or affection, from the age of five we’d be out doing
chores from five in the morning like milking the cows. Everything was
done by the kids, and we didn’t have the chance to learn about our
community and our culture.”

“Donny was eight when he first experienced sexual abuse.”

He told of Superintendent Fencer lining him and his two cousins up
during their bath time, then ‘fondling and touching’ them each in turn.
Boys throughout the mission went to great extremes to avoid him.

“If you were caught on your own with Fencer, you were in a whole lot
of trouble. He chased me through the dormitory once, but I jumped out
through the open window and straight onto a coke bottle. It cut right up
through my left foot and destroyed most of the nerves. I was in
hospital for three months recovering.”

The lid on the ‘bottled up’ memories of his shattered childhood only started to come unstuck as Donny approached his 30s.

“In the Aboriginal way we see it as shame, and we
wouldn’t have dared raise it with anyone because we’d have had the
living daylights flogged out of us. As it was we were attending school
covered in bruises, but teachers turned a blind eye.”

When he left the mission, Donny set out to find his family.

“I found my father, but he was very angry about losing the
opportunity to raise us. I spent a lot of time with him before he died,
but that cost me my relationship with my partner.”

He is yet to find his older siblings. “I still battle with alcohol,
and just want somebody held accountable for what happened to me and a
lot of others.”

Each day continues to bring its own challenges for Donny, who has
since confronted one of the missionaries who was charged with the care
of the boys in his dormitory.

“I told him we were being abused by Fencer, and he broke down in
tears wanting to know why I hadn’t told him what was happening. Put
simply, I told him we couldn’t tell anyone there without copping a
beating for lying.”

Donny’s children understand their father had a difficult
childhood. Although he’s kept the details private in an effort to
protect them, he fears future generations will continue to be negatively
impacted by the wrongs of the past.

“Our children and grandchildren are living the pain and that has to
stop. People were paid to provide a level of care that was never
delivered, and the state government needs to own up for its
responsibility,” he said.

“I still cry, I still have my moments, and telling my
story is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m really glad I did it.
Hopefully it will make other Indigenous people come and let everyone
know their story.”

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RELATED ARTICLE:
20th annual White Balloon Day educates children about sexual abuse
Communities from all across Australia
have signed up for the 20th annual White Balloon Day, held by
Bravehearts, in order to educate, empower and protect children from
child sexual abuse.

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