Yesterday, spry octogenarian Ralph Doughty (pictured above) gave evidence at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Dr Doughty, a solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court NSW and High Court of Australia, suffered unimaginable abuses during the ten years he spent at the Nazi concentration camp environment that was the Salvation Army Gill Memorial Boys’ Home in Goulburn, in New South Wales, Australia. Dr Doughty spent 10 years of his childhood in the home, experiencing multiple forms of abuse, of the most extreme nature.
The atrocities committed against innocent young boys committed at ‘The Gill’ have been documented well in various enquiries and media accounts, so the author will not recount these in this post, leaving the interested reader to instead learn more by reading the ‘Read more here’ links at the end of this post.
This post is to give something of an overview of Dr Doughty’s appearance, with a focus on how Dr Doughty appears to have been treated by the Salvation Army, and how he resisted the ‘authoritah’ of the Salvation Army.
Dr Doughty, a man of great courage, mounted, over the years, a fierce resistance to the Salvation Army’s fairly standard modus operandi in dealing with victims of its many, many children’s homes in Australia. While there are some variations, from media and enquiry reports to date, these might broadly be summarised as including the elements of the Salvation Army:
- Apologising to the victim.
- Offering a ludicrously low “ex-gratia” sum of money to the victim.
- Calling the payment offered “a tangible expression of our regret.”
- Denying liability to the victim “as alleged or at all.”
- Withholding payment of said “ex-gratia” payment until the victim signs a Deed of Settlement and Release that, broadly, sees the victim agree not to pursue the Salvation Army in legal actions and also often agree to not speak to anyone about the ‘settlement’ made unless the Salvation Army allows them to.
Controversial aspects of such processes include:
- The appropriateness of processes when involving illiterate victims (Note: many care-leavers were denied any education at all by their captors).
- The appropriateness of processes when involving victims too poor to afford legal advice and representation.
- The appropriateness of processes when involving victims in a desperate financial position and whether true consent can be given by a person not in any position to say no to a pitiful sum that might solve an immediate and pressing problem, regardless of how dire their futures might be.
- And more.
This post does not attempt to explore these issues. Its focus is on how Dr Doughty was treated, starting from the first mention of an “ex-gratia” payment.
In 2007, it appears Dr Doughty was offered $20,000 (later raised to $60,000). A justly outraged Dr Doughty said:
“It was like he [the person offering the money] had scooped up a pile of cow shit and thrown it in my face.”
[Dr Doughty’s use of the expression “cow shit” was also an oblique reference to the practice of the boys at The Gill, who were not provided with footwear by their Salvation Army overlords, even in the depths of winter, to warm their poor little feet by standing in piles of cow manure].
The story of Dr Doughty’s subsequent treatment is a complex one, but some of the key aspects include:
- A raising of the initial offer by the Salvation Army, as Dr Doughty became increasingly angry at how he was being treated, until Dr Doughty had the temerity to push the Salvation Army a little further than victims are apparently allowed to do.
- The Salvation Army indicating it would rely on statute of limitations legislation to block any civil claim Dr Doughty might make in the courts when Dr Doughty, having had the jack of how he was being treated, started down the litigation road.
- The Salvation Army indicating that it would not accept vicarious liability as an “unincorporated association” (Q: Are Salvation Army victims to having to contend with a ‘Doughty Defence’ just as Catholic Church victims are blocked in their quests for justice by the ‘Ellis Defence’?).
- The Salvation Army attempting to assert that Dr Doughty was actually never in ‘The Gill’! (Q: How might the Salvation Army expect Dr Doughty to have been in possession of any documentation that might have been able to disprove this assertion? The author is not aware of it being standard Salvation Army practice to helpfully issue children it released from ‘care’ with such documentation (including a detailed, dated and signed dossier of the abuses they endured) so that many years later, when their lives had been devastated by the abuses they suffered and they’ve finally come to understand themselves, they could easily sue the Salvation Army for economic and other losses experienced as a result of abuses. She is willing to stand corrected should the Salvation Army prove this was standard practice. The author is also not able to comment on how much documentation relating to records of children in Salvation Army ‘care’ have been fortuitously lost through mishaps such as fires and floods sweeping through records departments in areas not normally known for bushfires and flooding.)
[As an aside, the reader might be interested to know that in 2007, the law firm representing the Salvation Army in dealings with Dr Doughty was none other than Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The very same firm that acted for the Catholic Church against John Ellis in the famous ‘Ellis Defence’ matter, and which has been said to the author to be the preferred firm of Cardinal George Pell].
To cut a long story short, Dr Doughty didn’t go along with how the Salvation Army wanted him to behave. A rebellious Dr Doughty decided to go his own way. He somehow found the strength to overcome the sorts of low expectations that would have been instilled in him at ‘The Gill’. He somehow found the courage to stand up to the Salvation Army when it would have been perfectly understandable for him to cow in the face of people from a scarily authoritarian organisation so many have said have treated them with brutality and repression.
Dr Doughty wasn’t going to take things lying down.
And the Salvation Army didn’t seem to like that at all. Dr Doughty, seen through Salvation Army eyes, was probably viewed as something of a ‘naughty victim’. And, as subsequent events revealed, he was shown what happens to naughty victims who don’t do things the Salvo way. These events may have reminded Dr Doughty of what happened to young children in Salvation Army homes who stood up to their abusers or may have had thoughts about telling someone about what was happening to them, and may have threatened to destabilise him to the point he gave up in despair. They probably did. Whether the Salvation Army knows that this is the ‘place’ to which it sends victims when it fights anyone who tries to stand up to them is not known.
But Dr Doughty continued undeterred by his early childhood conditioning. And the Salvation Army fought Dr Doughty every step of the way. He endured years of psychological torture as his various claims were blocked at every step, and he was, to use the Australian vernacular, ‘stuffed around’ by the Salvation Army in a myriad of ways. Readers must remember that this came on top of the suffering he was already enduring because of his time in ‘The Gill’. As Dr Doughty has said:
“The pain from these events haunts me seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The pain builds up, like rust in a metal water pipe. Its first trickle is about being alone and helpless…Just look around. I’ve got a good family, I’ve got good friends, but the pain stays in you.”
Dr Doughty even received dire warnings about “the likely costs of a trial” should he persist in the rightful pursuit of his claims – a clear indication in this author’s eyes that the Salvation Army was prepared to spend millions, if necessary, to fight Dr Doughty. After all, it would be perilous to the comfort of Salvation Army officers were the dreaded litigation floodgate be opened, and Dr Doughty succeed in his claim for a reasonable sum of money to compensate him. It’s estimated that there are at least 30,000 victims of Salvation Army children’s homes in Australia alone, although the figure may be much, much higher than that – only the Salvation Army knows the truth. The true economic and other costs to victims and their families are far, far, far higher than the paltry “ex-gratia” payments offered to them. Of course, the vast global riches of the Salvation Army in the form of its expensive property holdings and for-profit corporate entities would be more than sufficient to properly compensate all victims, but that’s beside the point, apparently.
Sadly, but perfectly understandably, poor Dr Doughty, despite his extraordinary courage and tenacity in the face of bullies, eventually cracked. Dr Doughty, after more years of procedural re-abuse than any of us could honestly say we could endure, eventually “gave in” and signed the damned Salvation Army Deed of Settlement and Release. Just in case, though, that Dr Doughty had not endured enough suffering to make sure he was truly beaten down and never again re-emerged to be a thorn in the side of the Salvation Army, there was one more, cruel twist of the knife. When Dr Doughty turned up on the designated date and at the designated place to pick up his cheque, he was told that no cheque was available. The Salvo lawyer, Luke Geary, who was to give Dr Doughty his cheque, informed an understandably incredibly distressed Dr Doughty that “I will determine what happens” (Sieg Heil, Luke Geary!). Subsequently, though, Dr Doughty got his cheque and banked it.
This post might have ended at this point on a terribly sad note, in which the only conclusion could be that bullies always win in the end, were it not for two things:
- Dr Doughty did manage to get away with one act of resistance that even the Salvation Army couldn’t stop. Dr Doughty, who no-one should expect to trust the Salvation Army to follow up on promises after the shabby incident with the absent cheque, only signed the Deed of Release and Settlement after he got his cheque.
- Dr Doughty re-emerged today, like a phoenix from the ashes, to sock it to the Salvation Army and expose to the world its disgraceful practices with courage. As Dr Doughty said some years ago, “I have walked the walk, now I can talk the talk.” And we are grateful to Dr Doughty for talking at the Royal Commission.
Read more here:
[Postscript 1: As she was inside the hearing room at the time, the author cannot confirm or deny a report made to her that when dear Dr Doughty, distraught at being in such close proximity to what he referred to as his “captors” (the Salvation Army) and needing to relive his traumatic experiences to give his evidence, some Salvation Army officers watching proceedings on a television screen outside the hearing rooms were overheard to cheer loudly on occasions in which Dr Doughty stumbled in the giving of his complex story].
[Postscript 2: Salvation Army representatives continue to wear Gestapo-style uniforms in commission hearings in the possible presence of traumatised Salvation Army children’s homes victims attending proceedings].
[Postscript 3: ‘Major’ Peter Farthing from the Salvation Army approached the author today indicating he was still willing to meet with her after the end of the Case Study 10 hearings. She again said she wanted a representative from the media present at the meeting. Farthing refused, but didn’t reveal what he was so frightened about that she might say that he feared being overheard by the media. She said she’d think about it and get back to him. She’s thought a little about the matter tonight, and is now contemplating asking for the meeting to be held in the unisex toilets in Governor Macquarie Tower. She suspects she’ll probably (overseas readers are asked to forgive the scatological references in this post – it’s an Australian thing) “get the shits” with Farthing and possibly “piss herself” laughing at the shabbiness of any offer of compensation he may make to her. Accordingly, she may need to be in close proximity to a toilet bowl. She continues to ponder the issue …]
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.