Allegations of Abuse in Institutions

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Index 2003 (Sept-Dec)

The Press
September 5 2003

Speaking out for abuse victims
by Anna Claridge

As a 12-year-old, Brent Aplin lay in his bed, dreading the night ahead and what the early hours of the morning might bring.

It wasn't a childish fear of the dark that made him anxious. He says it was the reality of sexual abuse at the hands of a Salvation Army children's home manager.

Mr Aplin says the man who was to act as his caregiver betrayed his trust and, over a period of four months, visited his room nightly, fondling the young boy's genitals as other children in the home slept.

He says the abuse ended when the manager was "moved on".

Now living in the North Canterbury town of Oxford, Mr Aplin, 47, told The Press he was speaking out to help other victims of abuse.

"People who are abused feel shame. They shouldn't but they do. I am speaking out to try to help others."

Mr Aplin went into care aged five. His mother was sick (she died a year later), and his father was not able to cope with four young sons. All four boys went into separate homes, and have since lost contact.

After counselling in 1994, Mr Aplin finally approached the Salvation Army in June this year seeking $25,000 compensation and a formal apology. His approach was made one month before the Salvation Army in Australia publicly apologised to its alleged abuse victims, sparking a flurry of complaints in New Zealand.

He says the Salvation Army told him in June that it was taking his complaint seriously, and would investigate. He says he was not offered counselling, or support in the short-term, but believes an investigation has started.

Mr Aplin's June complaint was one of eight that the New Zealand organisation was investigating when the Australian abuse came to light. Since then, 22 new complainants have come forward in New Zealand.

Spokesman for the Salvation Army, Major Alistair Herring, said the organisation had been in touch with Mr Aplin, but had had difficulty progressing with his case because of insufficient information.

"We're deeply upset by the possibility that children might have been abused while at our children's homes. Our first priority is to work sensitively, thoroughly, and as quickly as possible with people who are approaching us to help with their concerns."

The organisation hoped to meet Mr Aplin to "progress" the complaint.



PHOTO: JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON Brent Aplin: says he was sexually abused at a Salvation Army home.