Five minutes of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against Ben Felton when he was only 13 has had a profound impact on the now 44-year-old’s entire life.
- New allegations have emerged about the Launceston General Hospital’s handling of allegations of child sexual abuse
- Ben Felton, now 44, says a male nurse sexually assaulted him when he was admitted to the LGH aged 13
- The allegations follow the explosive revelations a paedophile nurse continued working at the LGH while under police investigation in 2019
The alleged incident at the Launceston General Hospital, paired with what Mr Felton described as the protection of the nurse he accused of abusing him, has destroyed his trust in others, deeply affected his mental health and left him unable to bathe his own children or leave them unattended.
“It hurt, it shattered a lot of things,” Mr Felton said.
In 1989, teenage Mr Felton was admitted to the LGH paediatric ward with pneumonia.
Mr Felton alleges that when he asked for a glass of water one evening, the male nurse took him into a hospital kitchenette and “in his sick mind, decided to indulge himself”.
“I feel guilty, it made me feel dirty, and I don’t know how to comprehend it,” Mr Felton said.
Records show the incident was reported by Mr Felton’s parents to hospital management and the nurse was moved to another role within the Tasmanian Health Service.
Mr Felton has repeatedly sought an apology and an explanation for what he alleges happened to him as a child.
He battled for years for the paperwork on his case, but Tasmania Police records relating to allegations of child abuse are consistent only from 2002 onwards.
Asked about the allegations, a State Government spokesman said: “The Tasmanian Government has stood down 13 state service employees in response to allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in recent months”.
“It is fundamental that investigations are not prejudiced, as well as the need to acknowledge that legal considerations demand that no further comment can be made on these matters.
‘This is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree’
Freelance journalist Camille Bianchi has shone a light on Mr Felton’s allegations in her latest episode of investigative podcast The Nurse.
Season one of her series focused on allegations against another male nurse at Launceston’s tertiary hospital — James Geoffrey Griffin.
Mr Griffin, a paediatric nurse, took his own life in 2019 after being charged with multiple child sex offences.
“There are deeply troubling patterns of behaviour by hospital colleagues and management in [Mr Felton’s] story that I saw last year in investigating Griffin’s abuses on ward 4K,” Bianchi said.
“I felt a sense of urgency in publishing this ahead of the commission of inquiry, because it is increasingly clear this is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree.”
The commission of inquiry — Tasmania’s version of a royal commission — will examine how state government agencies have responded to historical allegations of child sexual abuse.
The Health Department’s handling of the allegations against Griffin have been singled out for particular attention.
“There will be emails and calls from distressed families who are now wondering if their child was targeted while they were in hospital, and I’ll have to say, ‘I don’t know’.”
A State Government spokesman said: “From a public interest perspective, the Tasmanian community can be assured that anyone in the care of a government agency are safe as the individuals have been stood down and appropriate assessment and further action taken.
“This matter was referred to Tasmania Police for investigation at the time of the allegation. No charges were laid.”
Mr Felton said the scars were long lasting.
“I have self-harmed, self-medicated, I have tried to run away,” he said.
“I’ve had a very interesting life, and that little five minutes in that hospital kitchen has had the biggest effect on my entire life.”
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