Flag bearing army cadets during a Battle For Australia commemoration in central Sydney
September 3, 2003. © Will Burgess / Reuters
Gruesome details about Australia’s military were revealed after a public inquiry on child sex abuse discovered how recruits were forced to rape one another as part of a sick initiation practice. The abuse went unnoticed for decades.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has received no fewer than 111 reports of incidents of sexual abuse carried out against navy cadets as young as 15 in the 1960s right through to the 1980s.
The harrowing ordeals involved instructions to rape each other, as well as carry out other, equally brutal attacks. Two institutions accounted for over 50 cases out of the 111 – the HMAS Leeuwin, in Western Australia, and an army apprentice school at Balcombe, Victoria.
The ordeal typically happened in the first six months of the boys’ stay. They would be encouraged to take part in a variety of acts – including ‘blackballing’ and ‘nuggetting’, both involving forced abuse of a sexual nature carried out by a group against one person.
Much worse, though, was the actual rape.
"The Royal Commission will hear that most of the abuse was perpetrated by older recruits as part of an informal hierarchy in which older recruits physically and sexually abused more junior recruits as part of ritualised practices of 'bastardization' that were designed to 'break in' and humiliate new entrants to the navy," an attorney on the inquiry, Angus Stewart, said in a statement, according to AFP.
"The survivors will give evidence that they were subjected to serious forms of sexual abuse, including fondling of the genitals, masturbation, oral sex, and anal penetration by a penis or other object."
The level of public humiliation resulted in shame among the youths, so cases would go unreported for years. Worse still, those that did speak out would often allegedly either not be believed, or be told the ordeal was simply “a rite of passage.”
According to the inquiry, one case involves a victim who was “regularly forced to perform and receive oral and anal sex on other junior recruits during his first six months at Leeuwin.” He was 16 at the time of the abuse, in 1967. CJA – as the now-adult man is being called – said his complaints were brushed off, and that he was accused of stirring up trouble.
This is the second major inquiry into sexual abuse at Australian military academies to take place in the last five years.