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Graphic stories of rape and sexual abuse of cadets shock Australians

Hundreds of teenage recruits were subjected to bullying, sexual abuse and rape, a Commission looking into institutional responses to child sex abuse was told
Eleanore Tibble

Former senior  naval officers has dismissed claims that fresh recruits were sexually abused and bullied at a naval training base in Western Australia.

The denial came on the second day of the hearing into sexual abuses of junior cadets in the Australian Defence Forces by a Royal Commission.

Geoffery Curran, who was Divisional Officer at HMAS Leeuwin in 1971 said he had no knowledge about sexual abuse. However he said there were talks of recruits rubbing boot polish on each other’s genitals, which he considered as “a rite of initiation”.

He also dismissed the derogatory language used by the recruits saying it was “just boys being boys”.

111 servicemen detailed their horrifying experiences while serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) from 1960 to 1980s.

Some 50 survivors who narrated the mental, physical and sexual abuses during their initial training pertains to Leeuwin base in Freemantle or Balcombe Army Apprentice school in Victoria.

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In the public hearing which began in Sydney on Tuesday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, is inquiring into experiences of men and women who were allegedly sexually abused as children in certain divisions of the ADF.

The public hearing which was available live as a webcast detailed graphic stories of the systemic abuses which stretched several decades.

A survivor of child abuse said during his deposition that he was instructed by the naval chaplain not to report the abuse by seniors.

The witness codenamed CJA said he had run away. But he was brutally punished after he was brought back to the base in 1967.

He said the was physically and sexually abused multiple times by naval police. The routine abuses at the training facility included masturbation, oral and anal sex, CJA claimed.

He also said he was threatened by an officer not to reveal to any one that he was raped and sexually abused.

“On multiple occasions I was snatched in the middle of the night and dragged to a sports oval. I was forced to suck another recruit’s penis or lick a junior recruit’s anus. This was often after another recruit had been buggered by an older recruit and ejaculated into,” CJA  said.

“I was also forced to have anal intercourse with junior recruits or I was raped by another junior recruit who was directed to do so by the older recruits or base staff,” said CJA. “This happened repeatedly,” CJA was quoted as saying by Sydney Morning Herald.

There was “a culture of abuse and secrecy” in the ADF, many survivors said at the hearing.

Angus Stewart, a lawyer assisting the Commission said the recruits were subjected to “ritualised practices of bastardisation that were designed to break-in and humiliate new entrants”.

The Commission also heard how the ADF had threatened to dishonourably discharge Eleanore Tibble, a 15 year old cadet on “fraternisation charges”,  after being allegedly molested by a senior.

Stewart said the teenage recruit was upset ab the possibility of being discharge committed suicide in 2000.

She was accused of having a sexual relationship with her 30 year old flight instructor. The allegations were baseless and the trumped up case had largely contributed to her suicide, later investigations had revealed, some new sites had said in earlier reports.

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Tibble’s mother Susan Campbell, who fought a long legal battle was among the 110 people who had contacted the Commission inquiring into child abuses.

The Commission is not entirely focussed on the abuses in the past. It is also looking into the current cadet programmes in the ADF.

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