In the late 1970s Brenden joined an Anglican youth club, and from the age of eight participated in the club’s activities and events, which included regularly camping trips.
Nathan Smith was one of the Anglican youth leaders who supervised the camps. Brenden told the Commissioner:
‘He started grooming me from day one, carrying me and kissing me, taking me to the toilet all the time and touching me. It just proceeded to get worse. We’d go on camps and he’d always have me in his tent. He’d always make sure I was in his tent and he’d fondle me and play with me at night – and himself.’
Brenden said that other boys were also being abused by Smith at the youth camps, and his behaviour was an open secret.
‘All the boys knew, because they tried to protect me, you know, they tried to get me in their tent.’
Eventually Tom, one of the other adults who attended the camps, became suspicious.
‘You know, Nathan used to always dress us and undress us, and he [Tom] walked in on that and he found that just wrong.’
Tom made an official report to the Church but no police action was taken and Smith continued to attend camps and abuse Brenden over the next three years.
The final incident of abuse happened in Brenden’s own home when he was about 11 years old. He was recovering from an injury when Smith dropped round for a visit. Smith touched Brenden and digitally penetrated him. When it was over, Brenden summoned the strength to stand up to his abuser.
‘I told him I was going to report him.’
Smith left the house and a short while later he rang Brenden and told him that if he ever mentioned the abuse to anyone he would be taken away from his mother. But by then, Brenden had already told her.
Brenden’s mother, Sue, reported the abuse to one of the Church leaders. The Church did not report Smith to the police. Instead ‘they moved him on to the next church’ where he continued to abuse boys. When Sue complained again, the Church leaders told her that Smith had been ‘forgiven’.
In the meantime, Brenden struggled with the impact of the abuse.
‘I had problems with jobs and difficulties in relationships, unable to get involved in a long-term relationship. … I just thought it was something you have to deal with in life or something, I don’t know.’
He began to ‘self-medicate’ with heroin, and in the late 2000s he hit rock-bottom.
‘I had a bit of a mental breakdown because I still had never dealt with it.’
Brenden underwent treatment, and during a session one day the doctor told him that he needed to deal with the abuse if he was going to get on with his life. Brenden took the advice to heart and decided to contact police.
‘It took about six attempts at going to the police station with me mum, and I kept freaking out and not wanting to do it. And eventually I got there and told them my story.’
Initially the detective told Brenden that his case would be too hard to prosecute, but then one of the other officers recognised Smith’s name from another case. The police quickly realised that several other men had already come forward to complain about Smith and they decided to investigate.
Eventually Smith was charged with assaulting six boys, including Brenden. He pleaded guilty.
Brenden is now taking prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and has been off heroin for the last 14 years. He told the Commissioner that he receives strong support from friends and relatives, especially his mother, who accompanied him to the private session and stood by his side as he told his story.