Walking to the light

ONE STEP AT A TIME:  Brett Matthews was sexually assaulted by his primary school teacher as a five-year-old and plans to walk around Australia to raise awareness of the plight of survivors. Picture: Lachlan Bence

ONE STEP AT A TIME: Brett Matthews was sexually assaulted by his primary school teacher as a five-year-old and plans to walk around Australia to raise awareness of the plight of survivors. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Child sexual abuse survivor, Brett Matthews has spent decades of his life searching for a “lost boy” whose innocence was stolen after he was raped by a primary school teacher at five years-old.

“I’ve spent most of my life feeling like a lone wolf,” Mr Matthews said. “I’ve never felt I really belong anywhere.”  

Mr Matthews said he felt he was preyed upon as a pupil at a government school in the Ballarat in the mid 1960s because his mother was chronically ill and crippled by arthritis. He battled alcoholism for years and a “killer anger” he described as feeling like there was “molten lava” trying to burst out from under his chest.

Four decades passed before he disclosed his abuse to anyone. His parents died without ever knowing.

"Back in those days you didn't tell anyone,” Mr Matthews said. "You knew it wasn't right but the shame made you keep it a secret."

He said not a day passed where he didn’t grieve for his lost innocence or wonder how his life would have turned out had his childhood not been so abruptly interrupted. He suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and still has flashbacks and nightmares about the abuse.

“When you get abused as a child it takes your spirit away and it’s very hard to find it,” Mr Matthews said. 

He now plans to walk 15,000 kilometres around Australia to draw attention to the ongoing plight of abuse victims.

“I’m walking for the people who are still suffering and for those who have taken their lives,” he said. “We can’t forget about the ones who have died because all victims have had those thoughts. We’ve all been to the brink of death and back. That’s why we’re survivors.”

The teacher who abused Mr Matthews was convicted for other child sex crimes but is now living back in the community. Mr Matthews made a submission to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse last year.

Mr Matthews said community initiatives like the Loud Fence campaign were critical to protecting the next generation of children.  “You’re never ever going to stop paedophilia but you can raise awareness for the next generation,” he said. He is now searching for supporters to help him on his trek. To find out how you can help call Mr Matthews on 0428 161 488.