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Victim Of Sexual Abuse Speaks Out On The Project

Former member of the Australian Defence Force reveals heart-wrenching details of abuse

A man has spoken about his horrific experience with sexual abuse in the Australian Defence Force as a Navy apprentice in Sydney. 

Ken McIlwain, now in his 60s, spoke on The Project last night, describing the emotional details of his suicide attempt after being raped.

He joined the navy when he was 16, and about a year after he joined, he suffered debilitating sexual abuse from one of the senior officers. Fighting his nerves, he told the story live with power and bravery:

“I used to do the ironing for one of the seniors. I took it up one time, and he usually paid me a small amount to do it.

“But this time, he grabbed me and threw me onto the bed, and had oral sex with me, and told me that was my payment.

“There was also someone else in the room, I noticed.”

This abuse continued for a couple of months, with the the senior officer asking him to ‘make sure he brought the ironing’. 

He went to a medical officer and told him about his physical complaints related to the incident, however the officer dismissed it as anxiety. But the next time Ken went back, he told the medical officer what had happened. The solution that the medical officer offered was not what he expected.

“They just kept giving me bottles of valium.”

Ken told The Project about the last time he was raped, and the feeling that there was ‘no way he could get away from it’, and how that led to him taking 72 pills of valium to commit suicide.

Though he survived the incident, and was sent to hospital, what followed was perhaps just as horrific. He was sent to a psychiatric ward, and when his parents came to visit, he tried to tell them. His father called him a liar and beat him. Since that day, he stayed silent about the abuse.

Today, over forty years since the abuse he experienced, he is managing triggers, such as buying the soap he used to wash himself with after the rape. He felt a duty to come forward and speak about his experience with the abuse, and urged anyone watching that had similar experiences in the Australian Defence Force to do the same.

The Royal Commission is conducting an official inquiry this week into sexual abuse in the ADF, and has already exposed horrific details of rape. Ken hoped that he could inspire others to fill out the paperwork and come forward by speaking out.

“Fill out those pages. Fill out the whole 13 pages. Don’t give up. Just don’t give up.”

Watch the whole heart-wrenching interview here:

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