‘He started out as just another one of the guys. The older referees there were all a certain type, easy-going, very nice people, and he fitted in really well. He was very fit. I remember thinking it was strange because he’d shave his legs. I remember thinking that was really weird because at the time I’d not seen that before. It turns out it was because he was in competitive sports; he was a kick boxer. And I found out later he was quite a good kick-boxer. As an individual I don’t recall that much specific about him. He was just always really nice and always willing to come and talk to me.’
At the age of nine, Brant gave up playing football to start refereeing games instead. He enjoyed earning money as well as the camaraderie between all the referees at his northern New South Wales club.
In the mid 1990s when he was 14, Brant was invited by Peter, a referee aged in his early 20s, to watch movies at his house. Peter had always been friendly and included Brant in social activities around the football club. Brant had been to his house before without incident, so it was a shock when Peter sexually abused him.
In written material and at his private session with the Commissioner, Brant said soon after he arrived for the movie night, Peter proceeded to demonstrate his kick-boxing ability. ‘I remember feeling impressed. We spent some time punching and “training”.’ The movie Peter chose was an erotic one and through it, he talked about ‘sex and nakedness’ while touching himself through his shorts.
Peter gave Brant his first drink of alcohol and kept encouraging him to drink more through the next movie, a pornographic one. He began masturbating and suggested Brant do the same. ‘I felt awkward and uncomfortable’, Brant said, ‘But did not know to object.’
Peter then insisted they masturbate each other and threatened Brant when he hesitated. He became angry when Brant was sick and became sleepy. ‘He punched his wall, which left a mark on the wall. I faked being too sleepy, I was just frightened.’ Pretending to be asleep, Brant felt Peter’s hand on his buttocks but when he didn’t respond, Peter walked away.
The next morning, Peter drove Brant home in silence. ‘It was completely ignored. My impression that I have trying to remember, I believe I didn’t see him again after that day. But I also quit refereeing not long after that - I think it was the following weekend.’
Brant said he only came to understand Peter’s actions as abuse when he reached adulthood. At the time he’d told the head referee he no longer wanted anything to do with Peter, but didn’t say why.
‘I just didn’t know what to make of it’, Brant said. ‘I really had no clue. I was going through puberty myself. It was just a very confusing time. I didn’t know where I stood with everything that went on. I didn’t know if that was normal. I didn’t know if that was something I was expected to do. All of those things. At the time it didn’t really have as big an impact as it does now looking back on it. I mean I knew I wasn’t comfortable with it, but that’s about as much as I can say.’
As an adult Brant disclosed the abuse to his wife, Julie, and she accompanied him to the Royal Commission. She’d also been to seminars on the topic of child sexual abuse. ‘It’s been interesting for me to go to these things and gain a better understanding of it because there is a culture of minding your own business, particularly in regional areas’, she said.
Brant said he wasn’t aware of any lasting effects the abuse had had on his life and didn’t feel the need for counselling. He hadn’t thought of making a report to the police because he didn’t know Peter’s last name, but in speaking to others was now reconsidering whether he should do so. He came to the Royal Commission because he’d heard ‘other people telling their stories’, and felt he had something to contribute. ‘I decided if I could make a little bit of difference it was worth doing.’
He didn’t know what would have made it easier to recognise the abuse and disclose it earlier. ‘I didn’t have the education on that sort of thing prior to that. Again it’s probably of the times. Back then there wasn’t any sexual abuse seminars you’d go to, or at least none that I knew of, certainly not in a country town. Had I of known I’m not sure I would have acted still, which makes it a little bit difficult. It was a significant point of embarrassment. Trying to be very frank with it all, I’m not sure what would have helped me to come out with it.’