Last week, to an audience of thousands, John Laws told Brian, an elderly man who’d been repeatedly sexually abused as a child, effectively to harden the f*ck up.
Because, after all, it’s easy being 11-years-old, stuck on a property 30 miles from town, where the boss is the abuser. It’s a breeze fighting back against someone who is bigger, older and holds the fate of your family in the palm of his hand.
Brian is now a virtual recluse, living in a caravan in the bush, scurrying into town for supplies when he has to but avoiding the world as much as he can. He’s never had a girlfriend. He never told his loveless family.
Imagine the courage it took to call Mr Laws. Imagine what it took for him to finally pick up a phone and tell someone his story.
Then imagine what it was like to be told he should be nicer to people, that he should “brighten up a little”.
Because in the world according to Mr Laws, abuse counselling goes like this:
“… don’t be down all the time, don’t be a wet blanket all the time. Try and have a laugh.
“Go to the pub and have a lemonade for god’s sake. God helps people who help themselves.”
Brian, Laws effectively said, should just stop whining because really, if he didn’t “scream in fright” or “yell out ‘stop that you bastard’” or “lash out with your fists”, it was his fault.
The night I lost my virginity to a boy I fancied in a car at a party full of hormone-fuelled teens, a bonfire blazing and cheap, illicit booze being thrown back when parents weren’t watching, I was raped by my cousin.
I wasn’t quite 16. He was a couple of years older. He came to the car, where I was sitting alone (turned out the boy I fancied only fancied one thing). I didn’t think much of it. Why would I? I’d grown up with him; our families shared holidays, Christmas day and hand-me-downs clothes.
We’d lined up together so our mums could smear bronze zinc on our peeling noses before we headed to the pool to get burnt all over again. I chose my footy team because he followed them, and as we got older and he got tougher I always thought he’d be there if I ran into trouble.