At the age of 13, Brandan was sexually abused by Damian Antony, who was an administrative officer with a recreational activities program run by a Sydney council. In speaking with and providing a statement to the Royal Commission, Brandan said Antony would drive everyone home at night at the end of activities and always dropped Brandan last.
One night, Antony drove to a secluded area in a Sydney suburb and stopped the car. Brandan said after a brief conversation, Antony tried to touch his genitals but he pushed him away. Antony then grabbed Brandan’s hand and used it to masturbate himself.
‘At that time I had no idea or had any sexual encounters with females or males’, Brandan said. ‘I did not understand what was happening and went along with it because I did not know how to get home from where we had parked, and just wanted to get it over with so I could go home. I had no idea at the time that what he made me do would cause him to ejaculate.’
Brandan said the same thing happened about 10 more times on other nights Antony drove him home.
Brandan’s mother announced that Antony was moving in with the family. She’d been befriended by Antony through work and social connections and he came into the home, sharing a room with Brandan, who ‘was horrified’.
‘From the first moment he stayed at the house, at night, he would attempt to touch me while I was in my bed’, Brandan said. Antony would get into his bed and try to lie down beside him and touch him, but would often be disturbed by other people ‘and scurry back to his bed’.
Antony was with the family for about 10 months. One night, he asked the then 15-year-old Brandon get in the back of his van and have sex with him. Brandan said he ‘snapped’ and ‘went at him with numerous punches to his head and body’, then got out of the van and hitchhiked home. Antony didn’t return to the family home again.
Afterwards, Brandan said he tried to put the abuse behind him. His school grades dropped and he became ‘a delinquent’. One teacher, who Brandan later realised probably worked out what was wrong with him, tried to approach the subject but Brandan said, ‘he touched a nerve and I ran’.
After school, Brandan took up a trade apprenticeship and became successful at work. He started ‘dabbling in drugs’, and became addicted to heroin as a ‘way to cope with the pain’.
‘You got to understand that inside me was a damaged 14-year-old boy who I wasn’t acquainted with, okay. So I’m looking at life through that prism.’
Brandan stopped using heroin after 10 years, but until the commencement of the Royal Commission, hadn’t acknowledged that he’d been sexually abused as a teenager – he had been ‘stuffing it down’.
At one stage he was admitted to hospital after a psychotic episode and given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. This initially came as a relief because he thought it gave reason to years of feeling depressed and at times suicidal, but after six months of taking medication that made no difference, Brandan realised it was probably the wrong diagnosis. A psychologist later diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2013, Brandan reported Antony’s abuse to New South Wales Police. The Royal Commission was ‘the instrument that allowed me to voice it’, he said. The police reporting process was a positive experience and Antony was arrested, charged and pleaded guilty to the offences. He was sentenced to eight months’ jail.
However, on appeal a judge took into account the defence team’s psychiatric report and the sentence was reduced to a good behaviour bond with a requirement that Antony see a psychiatrist once a month.
Brandan was angry that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) didn’t call for their own psychiatrist’s report to provide another point of view.
‘Really what he got in the end was a slap on the wrist – a good behaviour bond and to be mollycoddled by your psychiatrist for the next 12 months. Whereas he got an eight-month jail term in the local court.
'I was so angry with the DPP that they were so miserable that they wouldn’t spend the money. That’s what it boiled down to – a few hundred dollars.’
In 2015, Brandan sought legal advice to commence proceedings against the Sydney council, but staff there denied all knowledge of the activities program and couldn’t find records of its existence.
He also sought a recognition payment through the NSW Victims Support Scheme and received $10,000, the maximum payable. He felt it inadequate given factors like his 10 years of heroin addiction, which he directly attributed to the sexual abuse.
Brandan said he felt positive about the future and wasn’t currently seeing a psychologist. ‘I’ve had enough of inspecting my mind’, he said. ‘And now that I’ve got a voice of what the real underlying issue was all along, I’ve voiced it, I feel empowered. I feel a sense of myself … I feel like I’m growing up.
'I always needed people before, like kids need people. Now I’m working for myself. I’ve never worked for myself. I’ve always worked for other people.’