In the spectrum of criminality, nothing disgusts and enrages like pedophilia. Peter Gibson of East Geelong, Victoria, Australia discovered this in 2007 when his niece accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1979, back when she was eight. Peter fervently denied the charge but the judge found him guilty and he was jailed for nine months in May of 2009. Since his release, Peter has seen himself exiled to the far end of the social pile. I find him barricaded in a public housing flat in a shitty suburb west of Melbourne where his Indonesian wife cooks us spring rolls and gets tearful. Meanwhile, Peter pulls on his eyebrow hairs and mumbles about his innocence. I can’t say whether he’s innocent or not (you can read up on each side of the argument here and here), I’m just curious about his current life. How does it feel to go from a regular type of person to someone so universally hated?
VICE: So tell me about the actual accusation.
Peter Gibson: I was accused of forcing my eight year-old niece to masturbate me in a caravan. It’s total bullshit because I was living in Mornington at the time.
You weren’t there?
And you’re not a paedophile?
No I don’t believe in it. It’s disgusting and I believe people like that are sick and should never get out of jail and should be injected so they don’t get the urges anymore. You can’t go around doing things like that. It’s unethical. It’s disgusting.
You didn’t do it?
No. I swear on the Holy Bible and my wife’s death. I wasn’t there.
So how do you explain being convicted in court?
I suppose because it’s a hot topic and people are emotionally charged and don’t want to look at the facts. All they see is a victim but sometimes the victim plays on it. That’s what it was, just a family fight that got out of control.
How did your wife respond to the accusation?
My wife, she was devastated because she knows what I’m like. She doesn’t doubt me because she knows I always tell the truth.
And has your relationship changed because of this?
Before this nightmare started, we had a great life. We had a loving relationship that most would envy and sexually there was no problem in that department. Since this has happened, sex is non-existent.
Why is that?
The situation I’ve been put in and the medication has affected my desire to want sex.
What medication are you on?
At the time of my sentence I was on 20mg of the anti-depressant Lexapro. On my release my stress increased and my dosage peaked at 80mg, which I tried to drop to 60 but I was too depressed and was also thinking about committing suicide. I now also use Ozapram for sleeping as my brain never stops.
What do you think about when you can’t sleep?
I always think how I’ll sort this problem. What the next process is to prove I’m innocent. I don’t want to be a hermit.
Are you a hermit?
You never go out in public?
No, I don’t go out. I’m paranoid in case someone recognizes me, because I’ve been named and shamed in the paper.
What was the article?
Well, basically because my brother was involved too. Two brothers that raped kids—that was the story. So like, someone sees you and then they beat the crap out of you.
Has anyone ever recognized you?
No, that’s the silly part. They haven’t.
How were you treated in prison?
Every day I was bullied. They called me KFC (Kiddy-Fucking Cunt). When I went out to the doctors or whatever, my cell was trashed. Stuff was stolen. When I was on the phone they used to cut the phone off and all that sort of thing. They look down upon you even though they’re criminals themselves.
You told me you like to free animals from cages.
Yeah, I feel they shouldn’t be locked up because I know what it’s like. It’s not natural. It’s against their will to be locked up. I told my niece this and she won’t let me near her house now, in case I let the rabbit out.
Do you feel nervous around children?
Oh yeah. Like I have thoughts about if I see little kids run across the road in front of a truck, do I grab the kid and take the chance of getting in trouble with the police, or do I just walk away and bear with the shame of the knocked over kid?
Have your friends been reluctant to leave you alone with their kids?
Yes and no. Like we’re having a party on the 19th and my friend wanted to come but she said what if the coppers—because there are 50 people coming—what happens if the police turn up and find out her kids are there? She said, "I don’t want them thinking I'm a bad parent." So she couldn’t come.
Do you work?
I can’t get a job because I’ve been in jail and been classed as a pedophile. I’m on the sex offender list.
Do you ever cry?
Oh, in the beginning I did but I don’t cry anymore. I sort of cry inside, but I don’t cry outside. I suppose the worst is over. I’ve been in there and come out and it’s been nearly four years. The only problem is that the damn coppers come out asking stupid questions. That’s upsetting.
Who comes out? What are the questions?
A cop comes to the house, every month. Do you have children living here? No. Do you have a change of address? No. Just all that sort of stuff.
And how long will that continue for?
Until I’m dead. 30 years. 26 to go I think. It’s like you’re getting a cut and someone keeps putting salt in it when it’s nearly healing.
So what helps? You swore on the Bible before. Do you go to church?
Well I was forced to leave the church because there were too many children there. Now I go to a different church and I always have someone with me who can be my alibi if something is said.
But you still believe in God?
When I first got locked up I lost faith. When I got out of jail I was paranoid and didn’t want to go anywhere. Then when I went back to church I gained a lot of strength and belief in myself. I found strength in Him, more so now than before, because I was on the fence. That’s another thing that has kept me going - knowing that one day everything is going to change. I know that God knows I’m innocent and my family knows I’m innocent. That’s what keeps me strong.
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