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lunedì 17 agosto 2015
"Your ass belongs to us"
A victim of child sexual abuse at a now-closed centre for state wards has spoken out about how staff "tag-teamed" in raping him, despite his pleas for them to stop.
Norman Latham, 69, appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Monday, where a friend read out his statement of the systematic abuse he suffered in the 1960s.
Through his statement, Mr Latham told the commission that two senior staff members at the Turana Youth Training Centre took turns sexually assaulting him within weeks of him entering the system in 1962.
Mr Latham alleged staffer Douglas Wilkie, now 88, raped him nine times, the first time being when Mr Wilkie walked into his room and told him words to the effect of: "Latham, come with me."
Mr Latham said he was dressed in his pyjamas at the time and was taken to a barely furnished room with no windows and two locked doors, and ordered to remove his pants. He was raped, and said of the attack: "The abuse only lasted a few minutes but it felt like an eternity."
Mr Latham said he never reported the rape because the perpetrator threatened to send him to another group home, where he would have his throat slit.
"I didn't report the abuse because I was scared Wilkie would carry out his threats."
Mr Latham, who became clearly distressed while his statement was read out, said Mr Wilkie had told him "while you're here, your ass belongs to us".
Mr Latham alleged that another staff member, Eric Horn, now deceased, also raped him - a total of nine times.
"I became paranoid and stressed," Mr Latham said. "It was a game of survival."
Mr Latham said he ended up as a state ward after he ran away from his family multiple times, due to his violent, drunken father who regularly physically assaulted him. He later got into trouble with the police after breaking into houses and stealing a car.
Mr Latham said that after leaving Turana he became heavily reliant on alcohol and was in a serious car crash in 1973. He told the commission he attempted to take his own life and has suffered from nightmares and flashbacks for decades.
"I thought if I drank enough, it would wipe out my memory," he said.
Mr Latham is seeking compensation from the state, after the Office of Public Prosecutions dropped charges against Mr Wilkie just four days before his trial on charges of buggery and indecent assault was to begin, in March last year.
Mr Latham has been seeking answers to why the trial was abandoned, but the OPP decided against a meeting with him because it deemed it "inappropriate" to speak to Mr Latham as he was to give evidence before the royal commission.
The royal commission will be based in Melbourne for the next two weeks, hearing public submissions from former residents, police and staff members at Turana Youth Training Centre, Winlaton Youth Training Centre and Baltara Reception Centre.