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Brandon Jesse's story

‘I was a pretty happy kid. I used to just like playing with my mates, and playing sport.’

Brandon was six years old when his parents split up in the 1990s, and some of his siblings went to live with his dad. He and the other siblings stayed with his mum, who regularly attended the nearby Presbyterian church in Sydney’s inner west. He went to services with her, and to the after-school care the church offered.

When Brandon was eight, Reverend Peter began sexually assaulting him in the church toilets. ‘He used to pull my pants down and play with my penis, and stick his finger in my backside.’ He also made Brandon fondle him in return.

The abuse happened several times at the church, and on a number of occasions they went to Reverend Peter’s home. There, the priest raped Brandon.

A few times Reverend Peter had Brandon and some other boys the same age together at his house, and would make them watch as he sexually abused each of them.

Brandon remembers Reverend Peter’s manner as friendly, ‘but it hurt sometimes, when I got penetrated’. He did not really realise that what was happening was wrong.

This abuse continued for a couple of years, until Brandon moved away. Reverend Peter said he shouldn’t speak about it. ‘He’d say to me, “God wouldn’t want me to tell people, you shouldn’t dob on people, it’s a sin”.’

Brandon never disclosed it to his parents at the time, but thinks his mum would have noticed changes in his behaviour. He began skipping school and smoking marijuana, and became depressed.

When he was around 15, one of his mother’s friends asked him why he was so depressed. He told her about the abuse but doesn’t know whether she ever mentioned it to his mother.

He started getting into trouble with the law, mostly because of violence, and still has trouble controlling his anger. ‘It was very difficult for me to have friends, to trust people.’

In later years, Brandon has told some of his friends about what Reverend Peter did to him. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is currently on medication to manage this, but has never spoken about the abuse to his doctors. As an Aboriginal man, he finds making traditional paintings helps him.

Brandon has not told police about the abuse, or the Church either. As an adult, he has spent significant periods of time in prison, but did not ever tell his lawyers about it when they were representing him in court.

He wanted to share his experiences with the Royal Commission because ‘I thought I should tell somebody’, and wants to help prevent sexual abuse happening to other kids. ‘I feel that was wrong, what he did to me ... I won’t be the same again.’

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