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Christian James's story

Christian’s father was physically and emotionally violent towards him, so he was taken into care in the early 1990s. He was around seven years old, and soon became a ward of the state. He remembers being at the court for his wardship matter, and ‘my dad, in his work uniform, walking out and he goes “If you want him so bad, you can have him”. And that was the last fucked-up thing I heard’.

During his wardship he had over 40 different placements – ‘some good, some very good, some horrifying. Some they cause nightmares still to this day’. In one of the first places he went to, a woman ‘would beat the crap out of me ... She locked me in the room, and I remember crying and crying and crying, and just crying until I couldn’t cry no more. And I just used to think to myself “I’m going to die, someone’s going to hurt me, I’m going to die” ... I used to want my mum so bad’.

Settling down in any of these homes was very difficult. ‘I always ran away ... They used to use the word “sabotage” a lot, mainly because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.’

He was first sexually abused by his grandfather, during a family reunification visit organised by welfare which occurred shortly after he had been removed. His grandfather made him and one of his cousins strip down and ‘play doctors and nurses ... I knew even in my head at seven, that that doesn’t happen, why is this happening now? It’s never happened before’. He told a worker at his foster care, but it isn’t clear if any action was taken at the time.

This kind of abuse also happened to Christian at a Catholic residential facility in Melbourne, when he was around nine. A particularly violent worker made him and another boy ‘touch each other’, threatening to hit them with a belt if they did not do so.

At the age of 11 Christian was sexually abused by another carer numerous times, in a foster-type situation. ‘He made me do things [to him] ... He came in naked ... I was in my bed, I remember moving to the wall, as far as I can ... and I tucked under doona ... And he sat down on the bed ... He made me touch him, and then he made me doing something else ... He rubbed my head, and said that he’d come back later on.’ Later, ‘I told my workers, and they done nothing’.

By his mid-teens Christian was using heroin, amphetamines and marijuana heavily. He has had issues with intimacy and relationships, and also confusion about his sexuality. ‘I’ve never been able to consistently have a good relationship ... I’ve loved, but I’ve never been able to express that, because I don’t like having sex. I don’t like that. At one stage I questioned whether I was normal. I don’t like men, I know I like women. I know I’m heterosexual, but I question myself sometimes. I’ve said to myself “Maybe that was meant to happen to me”. And then I say to myself “No, it’s not meant to happen to anybody”.’

Christian is very troubled by not knowing why his dad was abusive towards him, causing him to be removed from the family, or why he was sexually abused in care.

‘I don’t know why the stuff that happened to me, happened to me. I can’t tell, I tried to work it out for a lot of years ... I want to stop hurting, and I want someone to take responsibility for what happened. ‘Cause I’m sick of being made to feel like it was my fault. I never done these things to people to touch me, and they touched me and hurt me ... I never did anything for that to happen ...

‘I thought I was being a good son. All I ever wanted to do was kick a footy with my dad, and just do normal things that a kid does with their dad.’

Christian is currently in prison, and is not accessing any counselling. He told the Commissioner, ‘My life completely is fucked, if you really want to know. How many times I’ve tried to end it ... Is it normal to hate myself?’

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