When Brent was very young his parents split up. After this, his mother had a breakdown and started taking a lot of medication. Brent feels he began to fill an emotional gap for her. ‘Every night Mum would come to my room and take me to bed. And she’d be naked … It was kind of horrific for me at the time.’
Because of his mother’s ill health, Brent was ‘off-loaded’ to relatives for a while. His older, male cousin was very protective of him. Brent was seen as ‘always a bit sensitive’ as well as ‘different’ because he was adopted. But it became sexual with his cousin. This child-on-child abuse started when Brent was 11 and continued for four years.
‘So, I guess, in some ways, I was conditioned to see that carers were people that I was to have sex with. And that has continued throughout my life with some pretty drastic consequences.’
When Brent was 15 he was admitted to a clinic in New South Wales for a mental health issue. This was in the 1980s. At the clinic was a nurse, Katrina Coulter, who was 30 at the time. She groomed Brent during his multi-week stay in hospital. She would sneak him out of the hospital at night and they would go to the park and smoke cigarettes together.
Brent went back to his mother’s after he left hospital. His relationship with Katrina then became sexual. He would spend two to three nights a week with her. She would drop him off at school. Brent saw Katrina as ‘cool’ and someone who introduced him to ‘culture and art and music, which were things that I loved but, in my family, they were not appreciated. This was somebody that I kind of saw a kindred spirit’.
Brent’s relationship with his mother was strained and confrontational. He was skipping school and going into the city a lot. This was also the time when Brent’s dissociative identity disorder started to emerge. ‘I was also confused, I think, about my sexuality. Because of dissociative identity disorder, I’m what you call a polyamorous person … I can be straight. I can be gay. I can be bi-sexual … So it’s a very confusing thing and at the time I think some of those were present, because there’s memory lapses.’
Brent also started having gay relationships, which Katrina didn’t like. Their relationship ended after about a year. Katrina stopped being a caring person and became a ‘psychotic stalker person’.
By then Brent was 16 and had also started a relationship with an older man, in which Brent describes himself as basically a ‘sex slave’ in exchange for drugs and companionship.
Brent feels the abuse coloured his whole life.
‘Years and years of self-harm, which includes cutting, suicide attempts, just untold horrors I’ve been through in my life. And just feeling like I have to look after myself, that everything’s on me … I can’t say in the one place. I can’t stick at things. People just say that I’m fucked up or lazy … I’m still here though, because … I just feel like I’ve still got something to offer.’
In the late 2000s Brent reported Katrina to the Department of Health and enquired whether she was still a practising nurse. He was told that they would only look into the matter and de-register her if he made a formal police complaint and she was found guilty. At the time Brent’s psychiatrist advised him not report to the police as his mental state was vulnerable.
‘And I started to self-doubt again … Well, maybe I have no grounds. Maybe, you know, it was my fault … Maybe I should have been more careful. Maybe I should have said “No”.’
Brent decided to come to the Commission after he saw it on TV and realised that what he had experienced with Katrina was, in fact, institutional abuse.
‘Someone said to me once, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”... So this is me changing.'