Australian Defence Force cadets, some as young as 14, were told by senior officers to “suck it up” after being forced to rape or be raped by their fellow cadets as well as less horrific acts that also certainly qualify as abuse leading to emotional turmoil and even suicide.
Australia’s Defence Force and a culture of abuse
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse began its investigation of the Australian Defense Force’s treatment of teenage cadets some time ago, but today marked the first day of testimony that is nothing less than heart-wrenching and rage inducing. Let me warn you before hand, this piece will not lack for graphic details to show the sheer terror and abuse that a number of cadets were subjected to during their time at the academy.
Tuesday saw repeated testimony from survivors of the abuse and unfortunately testimony from parents of cadets that took their own lives as a result of said abuse. 15-year-old cadet Eleanor Tibble committed suicide after she was threatened with a dishonorable discharge following a less than consensual relationship with a 30-year-old instructor at the academy.
Her mother was among another hundred plus others who contacted the commission over the abuse that occurred over a decades.
A Navy cadet who served in the south of Pearth in 1967 at Leeuwin Base, told the commission that on numerous occasions he was raped and forced to perform oral sex on a number of recruits after being encircled by them.
‘I was forced to suck another recruit’s penis or lick a junior recruit’s anus. This was often after another recruit who had been buggered by an older recruit and ejaculated into,’ the man who was given the pseudonym “CJA” (to protect his identity) told the commission in testimony today.
The same recruit said that he was also unwilling to report a chef that ejaculated into an officer’s meal before serving him.
Graeme Frazer, “comfortably” became the public face of this scandal after being abused at the same naval training base at the age of sixteen, 36 years ago.
He spoke of the initiation ritual of “nuggeting” where cadets were held down while their genitals were treated with boot polish and “shined” with a hard-bristled brush.
When he reported the incidence on two occasions he was dismissed by senior officials the suggestion that it was simply a “rite of passage in the real Navy.”
Abuse by the numbers
In total, the commission is looking into: (According to the Sydney Morning Herald)
- 111 people who experienced physical, mental and sexual abuse within the ADF have contacted the commission
- 50 were about child abuse at HMAS Leeuwin in Perth or the army apprentice school at Balcombe in Victoria
- 26 were about child sex abuse of ADF cadets
- More than 30 people have complained about child sexual abuse within other ADF establishments including at HMAS Cerberus, the ADF Academy, Puckapunyal Army Base, Kapooka Army Base and RAAF Base Wagga Wagga
Mr. Frazer is one of only 14 surviving witnesses scheduled to testify in front of the commission following a task force being set up in 2012 to look at the 2,400 complaints made against the Australian Defence Force.
Regardless, of what the commission final ruling and recommendations end up being following the hearing, today is the first of many dark days that the Australian Defence Forces have to look forward to as more testimony is made and new information comes to light.