“Saying ‘no’ was pointless.”
More than a hundred former military cadets in Australia have come forward to testify about abuse dating back to 1960, reports CNN.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse is conducting an inquiry in Sydney through July 1, hearing testimony from 111 men and women who report being raped and forced to rape each other as “initiation” in the Australian military.
Witnesses say they were raped by older recruits and staff, and also forced to rape their fellow recruits. They were told it was a “rite of passage” and risked being ignored or punished if they reported the abuse.
“On multiple occasions, I was snatched from my bed in the middle of the night by older recruits,” said one unnamed man. “The environment made it useless to resist. One could stand only so much abuse before realizing that saying ‘no’ was pointless. After a while compliance and getting it over and done with seemed the best solution.”
The abuse took place at a naval training center in Western Australia and an army apprentice school in Victoria throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, as well as more recently among Australian defense force cadets, who report assaults taking place since 2000.
One survivor, now 65 years old, said that as a 16-year-old naval recruit, he was dragged from the showers, beaten, and sexually assaulted by three other recruits. They tried to force him to give them oral sex, then held him down, covered his genitals with boot polish, and scrubbed them with a hard brush. He remembers being “terrified” and said he has suffered depression, guilt, and shame for years.
Representatives from Australia’s Defense Ministry said they are cooperating fully with the inquiry and “supports its objectives to safeguard children.” The inquiry is the latest in a long-running investigation into sexual abuse in the Australian military.
“We recognize and commend the courage of those who will tell their own stories of personal suffering throughout the hearings,” said a spokesperson, declining to comment further.