Graham Rundle says it’s hard to remember how many times he was sexually abused during his years at a Salvation Army boys’ home in Adelaide, but it was at least 200.
It started when he was eight, just two months after he arrived at the Eden Park Boy’s Home in the Adelaide Hills in 1960.
It involved both older boys and staff, but one man was particularly brutal.
Employee William Ellis sexually assaulted Mr Rundle more than 100 times and was eventually jailed for his crimes.
Appearing before the Royal Commission into child sex abuse in Adelaide on Tuesday, Mr Rundle told how Ellis would blame him or blame the devil after his attacks but would never blame himself.
Mr Rundle said he was sexually assaulted at all times of the day, even during Bible reading sessions, while other attacks came in the library, the staff room, the clothing room and the boiler room.
He said during some incidents Ellis would “grunt” and “I still have nightmares of that sound he made”.
Another former resident, Steven Grant, told how Eden Park had a “culture of humiliation” where boys were punished for no reason.
While a third, who chose not to be named, described Eden Park as a “hell hole” and said going to bed at night was a terrifying experience with boys regularly taken away to bathrooms to be abused.
The commission, sitting in Adelaide for two weeks, will examine the operation of four Salvation Army homes – Eden Park in Adelaide, Box Hill and Bayswater in Victoria and one at Nedlands in Western Australia, between 1940 and 1980.
Counsel assisting, Sophie David, said 13 former residents would give evidence to show that child sex abuse was widespread, unchecked and flourished over a long period of time.
The commission would also hear of the Salvation Army’s response to the abuse, including the payment of 418 compensation claims between 1995 and 2014, worth almost $18 million.
Now 63, Mr Rundle told the commission how he returned to Eden Park in 2000 to try to ease his nightmares which had become unbearable.
“I drove up the driveway and ‘boom’, I was back there,” he said.
“A little kid trapped.”
Mr Rundle said when he first approached the Salvation Army as an adult seeking compensation the organisation did everything it could to stop him.
He has never received an apology.
“The truth is that we don’t ever forget and get over it,” he said.
“Once your childhood is taken from you, it’s gone forever.”