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Terry King, 65, was gang-raped in the Burnham Military Camp showers in 1975. He has told his harrowing story for the first time as part of CTV’s Challenge the Silence series.
Terry King stood naked while the blood ran down his legs. It flowed into the water before heading towards the drain of the army showers.
The 21-year-old looked up and saw two regimental police also staring at the blood.
Published in New Zealand Herald
An hour had passed since he went into Burnham Military Camp’s showers. Since four or five members of his platoon had turned off the lights, yelled obscenities at him as they threw him up against the wall.
Terry remembers the first ‘brutal penetration’ and then nothing.
Finally, one of the RP’s spoke.
“Get yourself bloody cleaned up Private. When we come back, if you’re not out of here and back into your barracks, we’ll charge you,” Terry recalls.
It was called barrack justice. Inflicted on Terry because he and two others had dirty rifles and weekend leave was cancelled as a result.
But it was gang rape. Of a young man who had hoped the army would bring him a new life, far removed from his years of terror being sexually violated and bashed.
It turned out to be more of the same hell.
First sexual assault at age six
Terry, 65, is in a small garage out the back of the Canterbury Mens’ Centre. He is tall but slightly hunched. His face is careworn, and he never seems to stop moving. He rattles off his physical and mental ailments.
Terry is the fourth out of 11 people who will sit in the garage to share their stories of sexual abuse as part of CTV’s video series Challenge the Silence. They are stories of boarding school brutality. Of sexual violation by a priest. Of rape committed by people known to them. By strangers. By neighbours.
The men are telling their stories because they do not want other victims to suffer in silence, to feel like they are the only one this has happened to. They want them to know there is help.
Terry begins by listing the milestones of his first sexual assault at age 6, his first rape later that same year and his first beating.
The most horrific rape he remembers was when he was nine or ten-years-old.
“There was a priest and he was raping me and he had the back of my head and he was bashing it against the wall saying ‘cry you bastard, repent to God, cry you bastard’ and I wouldn’t cry. I can remember the smell of the blood, running down my face.”
There wasn’t a year that went by where Terry wasn’t being sexually abused or beaten. Mostly by people he knew.
When Terry was 13, he told a district nurse of the abuse. She screamed at him ‘god will have you for your sins’.
He was accused of making up the sexual assaults. Because he was also running away from home and being ‘hauled’ back by police he was put in a psychiatric facility. There, he was given electroconvulsive therapy.
Terry thought joining the army would give him a chance at a new life.
“To me, it was the family I never had. I did want to make it my career.”
It was in 1975 during basic training that Terry was gang raped in the showers.
After a “speck” was found in his barrel during an inspection on Friday, Terry says the corporal in charge of his barracks yelled ‘it’s up to you lot to sort this s*** out’.
They came for him on the following night.
Terry always showered alone. As soon as he heard the boots running and the lights flicked off, he knew he was ‘in for it’.
A man yelled at him: ”We’ll bloody do ya, ya bastard, you know this is your punishment.”
Four or five men raped him. About five or six others watched. He doesn’t remember anything after the first “painful” penetration. The amount of blood flowing down his leg when he came to made him think they had also used a broomstick on him.
After he was discovered by the RP’s he went back to his barracks and put all of his civvie clothes on his bed, terrified someone would see the blood.
On parade the next morning, Terry’s facial injuries saw him sent to the medical officer. No one asked him how he got his injuries.
Another man, who also had a dirty rifle also the same treatment, Terry says.
“For me, I shut my mouth because I knew a week beforehand there was something similar. The young fella reported it and within a week he was kicked out.
“You’ve got to remember, back then homosexual acts were illegal, and both people could be arrested.
“I had nowhere else to go. Where was I going to go?”
‘I guess I was trying in a way to find death or let it find me.’
After his training finished, Terry went on a drinking binge for three months.
“I have no idea what I did. Three months of my life, it was gone.”
Terry served in the Territorials for 10 years. For the rest of his life, he drank heavily and engaged in high-risk activities, such as flying in a hazardous way, to avoid thinking of his sexual violations.
“I guess I was trying in a way to find death or let it find me.
In 2017, Terry went “off the rails big time”.
He seldom got more than three hours of sleep at night due to nightmares. He would wake up, thrashing around. Even the booze didn’t help dull them.
He threatened to kill himself several times and is receiving counselling for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
Last year, Terry wanted the NZDF to hear his story. He wanted some “kind of justice, some acknowledgement”.
At the request of his counsellor, two members of the NZDF did meet with Terry and listened as he told them about his gang rape in the showers.
He thought as a result of what they said the NZDF would look into his case or apologise.
He says he called them a few times but did not hear back.
A NZDF spokesman says its view of the meeting was different to Terry’s.
“It was the NZDF view and agreed with his support person prior to the meeting and with Mr King at the time, that the meeting was to allow him to talk about his experience, but not for the NZDF to take any further action.
“Both of the individuals who met Mr King did receive follow-up phone calls from him, but he did not indicate he was expecting further action from the NZDF.”
Terry should contact the police in the “first instance” if he wanted a formal investigation to take place, the spokesman says.
“The NZDF can also look into formal allegations and complaints if it is provided with sufficient detail and consent to determine jurisdiction.”
Anger at NZDF response
The response has deeply affected Terry.
He went bush for days with his horses out the back of where he lives in Hawarden, North Canterbury. He slides between anger, sadness and deep depression. But mostly anger.
“They’ve heard my story, how come I’m the one that has to push it further? They just want me to disappear and shut up,” he says on the phone when he returns.
“What point would there be of a police investigation? Everyone’s probably bloody dead, why can’t they just bloody do something, acknowledge it, apologise.”
Violated days before wedding
Male Survivors Aotearoa national advocate Ken Clearwater agrees.
“You’ve heard these stories. You’ve heard what we’ve said why wait? Why can’t you think okay if that’s an issue we need to do something and how do we deal with it,’ he says.
Ken was also sexually violated while at Burnham Military Camp – a story the NZDF and Minister of Defence Ron Mark have heard.
In 1972 he was sexually violated during his medical on entrance to the army and later that year was attacked by a group of men.
It was a couple of nights before his wedding.
“I’d come back from the pub. I was drunk and got back to my barracks and the next minute I got attacked.
“A whole lot of guys, I don’t even know how many men were there and I don’t know who they were, they literally ripped all my clothes off, my boots everything. They held me down and smeared me with jam around my genitals and into my anus.”
He was found wandering the halls by night patrol, naked with jam dripping off him, his clothes tucked under his arm.
He told them what happened.
“They said get showered and get back to your room otherwise you’re going to get locked up.”
His sexual violation came only six years after he was raped and sexually abused as a 12-year-old.
“They call it barrack justice. But it’s not. It’s sexual violation. It’s rape. It is sexual trauma that is caused on these men and of course, it’s done in front of other men. The shame and the humiliation when it is done by a whole bunch of guys, that is total humiliation of a fellow human being.”
The NZDF says barrack justice is a ‘serious breach of discipline’ and in more severe cases criminal offending.
At a meeting last year held at the Christchurch City Mission by the NZDF, Ken stood up and shared his story for the first time. Afterwards, he spoke to two members of the NZDF about it in further detail.
He has never heard anything further from the NZDF.
“I thought something would come of it from there, I didn’t realise I would have to push it.”
When asked if the NZDF had done anything as a result of hearing Ken’s story, a spokesman replied: “Stories like Ken’s are the reason [the] NZDF is looking into how it responds and provides support to cases of historical abuse.”
Ken met with Ron Mark earlier this year and told his story to him.
Mark, who served in the NZDF, says he asked Ken to send him a letter outlining his story and his concern over NZDF’s response to historical sexual abuse.
The letter is on record and the NZDF has seen it and will liaise with Ken further, says Mark.
He says he can not comment on Terry’s case as he does not know the detail but says he expects the NZDF to treat ‘every survivor with respect and dignity’.
“The defence force Ken and I were part of in the 1970’s is a world away from the defence force of today. Today’s leaders in the Defence Force would not stand for some of the behaviours that were exhibited back then,” he says.
He says it has come a long way with dealing with sexual related trauma.
“I’m comfortable with their progress, however, they know that I am keeping a close eye on things.”
Ken has now written to the NZDF to take his story further. He cannot see the point of a police investigation.
“Because I don’t know who it was. It would be a complete waste of police resources. All I need is an understanding from then that what happened was real and that it is no longer happening. For me, that would be a long way into my healing.”
Not an isolated case
Ken says Terry’s is not an isolated case, he knows of several others.
“Nothing changes until someone stands up and that’s what Terry has done. It’s now up to the defence force to say we’ve got an issue and how do we deal with it?”
He says the NZDF has “no idea” how to handle cases of historical sexual abuse or be proactive on the issue, especially after watching how they have handled Terry’s case.
“We’re happy to sit with them and work through that. I don’t think they have acknowledged or even understand the issues. Or even the depth of those issues that are going to come up to allow men and women to come forward and say this happened to me.”
A NZDF spokesman says it is working on how it responds to historical sexual trauma cases.
“We acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do. The work into historic cases will take time and is only just starting.”
“We understand that if we are going to make lasting culture change, we need to acknowledge the past.”
It will be consulting in the future with organisations, including Male Survivors Aotearoa.
Ken thinks it is a good start.
He would like to see the NZDF investigate the extent of historical sexual abuse, like the Royal Commission into historical abuse in state and faith-based care currently underway.
“It is time for people to understand the damage this does to a human being when you are humiliated in a place where you are supposed to be defending your country.
“We need our country to stand up and say that it is not good enough and how do we help those men and women that have suffered while in the defence force.”
Mark says he is yet to take advice on Ken’s idea and could not give an answer if it was a possibility.
‘It never leaves you.’
A few weeks later Terry is on the phone. He’s with his horse Stella, she has been in an accident and he is dossing down next to her to make sure she pulls through. It is touch and go for her. He speaks quietly so as not to bother.
He isn’t going to follow the NZDF recommendation to contact police.
“Why bother? It’s up to the defence force. They’ve heard my story and they didn’t care,” he says.
“Like I say, I’ll never get justice. I know that.”
There is a pause.
“But you know what? Maybe my story will see other men and women say, hey I need some help and then they will go get that help.”
He knows people will ask why he stayed in the army. He was also behind the 100 Years 100 Horses Ride in 2014, which commemorated the men and horses who went to war.
The military was in ‘his blood’. His great grandfather served in WWI and his grandfather in WWII.
“I had hope. I always had this belief that I would find a family. And for a while there I did. I believed in what the NZDF stood for and I put what happened to me down to a few bad eggs.”
But there was always an unsettling feeling during those 10 years in the Territorials.
“I’d look around and I was never sure. Were they the ones who attacked me? Were they the ones who were watching?”
“It never leaves you.”
Terry spoke to CTV as part of its Challenge the Silence series. One in six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18. In this video series, 10 men have told their stories. All grew up believing they were the only ones it had happened to. Now they want other victims to know they are not alone and, if they are ready, help is there for them.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Published in New Zealand Herald
18 April 2019