Conn was born in the mid-1960s, and spent his early years in western Sydney. In the early 1970s, his parents divorced, and he and his siblings moved around with his mother until she managed to buy a house in south-western Sydney.
About the time of the divorce, Conn contracted a serious viral disease, and was in and out of hospital for a couple of months. The illness interrupted his schooling and friendships, and he became ‘fairly disruptive’ in class. ‘I was a bit of a nuisance, bit of a tearaway,’ he said. ‘I had a teacher that used to cane me nearly every day. I had another teacher who didn’t know how to deal with me so she locked me in a cupboard.’
Conn was picked on in the playground because he ‘wouldn’t physically stand up for’ himself. This vulnerability was probably the thing that caught the eye of Dave Pratt, his primary school English teacher.
Conn respected and looked up to Dave Pratt who came across as ‘caring and understanding’. ‘He … used to get kids interested in jumping on the CB [radio] and sitting in his car, all that sort of stuff, so he sort of built a bit of a relationship up with a lot of students, not just myself.’
By convincing Conn’s mother that he ‘needed a male role model’, and that she needed ‘a bit of time out’, Dave Pratt began to take Conn away on weekends. The first sexual encounter occurred in the mid-1970s on a trip to a town near Bathurst.
‘There was no sort of aggression or anything like that’, Conn said. ‘He actually made you feel comfortable, brought you into the fold, and then the abuse started ... It was not with physical violence or threats. The only threat I might have had would’ve been an implied one where, look, if you don’t do this, you won’t be coming out on the weekend to go motorbike riding.’
Initially, Pratt was the ‘sole perpetrator’. However, he soon introduced Conn to other men who he was expected to have sex with. ‘I don’t know if Dave prostituted me for money. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. I never saw any money change hands, but I had sex with a lot of people.
‘It would happen at various places … We used to meet up with a group of other men and children at various places in Sydney on a Friday night, and then it was, “Okay, where are we going?” We might go to … Bellevue Hill, or we might go to Dee Why … We used to go to the Cross at lot, Friday night, quite late.’ Also, ‘cannabis was always there’, he said.
The group ‘was very, very organised’. ‘I was getting flown down to Melbourne on the weekend without my mother’s knowledge to see another perpetrator down there … a doctor. This was a regular occurrence. If I wasn’t flying down there, he’d come up.’
A couple of years ago, Conn saw a picture and realised that one of the men who had abused him had been a notorious paedophile. ‘I saw the picture, and I went, you bastard, I know you!’
Conn told no one about the abuse. He said that ‘it was pretty much … mentally beaten into me that you did this, you did that, you don’t do this … I was pretty much brainwashed’. As were other children. ‘They had Dave Pratt under surveillance,’ Conn said, ‘and when they actually arrested him, he had children at his house … And those kids went, “No, no, no, nothing happened, nothing happened”, ‘cause that’s what they were told’.
The abuse ended when Conn was in his mid-teens, and ‘of no further use’ to Pratt. ‘If I had to put a figure on the amount of males I’ve had sex with, would be 20 to 25,’ Conn said.
In high school, Conn was a ‘loner’ with a drug habit. He had ‘no real friends’, and his grades ‘went down dramatically’. He stayed on, hoping to matriculate, but ‘that was never going to happen’. He joined the army, but didn’t last there for long.
Entering his 20s, Conn would stick anything in his arm. ‘No matter what it was, I’d try it.’ He also had ‘very promiscuous sex with males’ who would pick him up in pinball parlours because, he realised, he was ‘looking for that connection again’.
‘And then it was like, if I don’t leave Sydney, I’m going to die. So I was off. I just packed a bag and started hitching.’ Conn had some great jobs, but being unable to deal with authority, they didn’t last.
In his late 20s, Conn went to the police and said he’d ‘like to make a statement concerning paedophilia’. Because he was a drug user, the police officer sent him home to write about it, and ‘just fobbed it off’.
A couple of years later, in the mids-1990s, Conn approached a detective who took a four-page statement. ‘I was concerned for my safety because some of these people were quite wealthy and I was quite concerned’, Conn said. ‘Like I know it doesn’t take much to get someone knocked off.’ He then met a ‘great police officer’ who ‘dragged so much information’ out of him, and worked with him to put together a statement which was ‘upwards of a hundred pages’.
The police charged Dave Pratt, and another man called Monty Fender. Pratt committed suicide, but Conn’s subsequent claim for victims compensation was turned down. Fender ‘got off through lack of evidence’, but 15 year later, was jailed for sexually abusing other victims whose statements, Conn said, were ‘identical’ to his. He currently has a ‘brilliant’ lawyer fighting his civil case against Fender.
These days, Conn drinks ‘six beers a night’, has a cannabis dependency, and is a chronic smoker. He is hypervigilant, has ‘extremely low’ self-esteem, and his head is ‘all over the place at times’. ‘I still don’t cry,’ he said. ‘I have lots of unexploded anger issues which medication is helping with. I still haven’t confronted the issues. It seems I so get so far and then I have this blockage … I can’t go any further.’
However, Conn has an ‘awesome’ counsellor, and a long-term partner Maggie who, despite his rage and jealousy, supports and understands him. Maggie said, ‘He’s lovely, I adore him, but this is, like, so hard’.
Conn also has a job helping people, which he loves. He shares this job with Maggie who helps him with the paperwork. When she said, ‘between us we make a really good working person,’ they both laughed in agreement.