Cory grew up during the 1980s in a tough part of eastern Sydney, which was known to have a high crime rate. His family lived near a Safety House, part of a scheme set up to provide children with a place to seek assistance if they felt threatened in any way.
People who applied for their homes to be included in the program were supposed to be screened by police, and interviewed by a committee of parents, with the aim of ensuring they were suitable for this appointment.
Cory does not think these checks were always conducted, however. ‘Back then, I think it was easy enough for someone to get a Safety House, I think the people that did, some of them were abusers ... There wasn’t no stringent code for them to get it, they could just apply. ‘Cause if they were home or something between certain hours, they could just get it. I don’t think the backgrounds of the people were checked, or the people who lived there.’
Once applicants were approved, their home was provided with a sign so children could easily identify it. If a child was in trouble and came to the house, the adult was expected to call the police immediately.
Cory first went to his neighbourhood’s Safety House when he around eight years old, and was sexually and physically abused by the adult sons of the lady who lived there. These men were in their late 20s, and continued to abuse him for the next five years.
Cory was too scared and ashamed to tell anyone at the time. He became very frightened to walk home after school with his sister, particularly worrying that something bad might happen to her. He left school in Year 9 – ‘I couldn’t learn at school, I was too worried and anxious’ – and then ‘worked all my life’.
At the time he spoke to the Commissioner, Cory had not engaged with any counselling about the sexual abuse in his childhood. He has been plagued with persistent memories of the assaults, and reported other impacts including depression, anxiety, nightmares, aggression and drug use.
Cory used marijuana when he was younger, but around four years ago began taking ice, after learning that one of the men who abused him was living back in the area. He told the Commissioner he was ‘just looking for escape, and then someone said to me, try this, it’s good. It just seemed like that it took me away from all the bad thoughts ... So I didn’t think about things that were all going on, and all the way that I’m feeling, and all the different thoughts that I have’.
After being frequently absent from work because of his increasing drug use, he was called into head office and given the chance to leave on good terms. At this stage he finally decided to disclose the sexual abuse to his parents.
After Cory lost his job he committed a number of offences, and was eventually incarcerated for a serious violent crime. He has a number of children from different relationships, but is not in contact with all of them. His parents still visit him every week in jail.