Ebony's story

‘I know we’re not the victim but we are victims. We are victims of this whole situation … We’re still carrying the burden and no one’s looking at that or accepting that from us.’

Ebony came to speak to the Commissioner on behalf of her father, Jason, now deceased. She came with Jude, unrelated to Ebony, one of Jason’s ex-partners. The two of them told of the abuse Jason endured as a child and how it affected his life and the lives of his two families, even his grandchildren. Ten years after Jason’s death they are all, in some ways, still dealing with the pain and suffering of his boyhood.

Jason was born in New South Wales in the 1950s to alcoholic parents. His father left the family when Jason was seven years old and his mother wasn’t able to look after him and his many siblings. She put the children in various homes and Jason and his brother went to an Anglican-run children’s home on the North Coast.

As Jude related in a 2014 letter to the Anglican diocese responsible, Jason was sexually abused, more than once, by two ministers involved in the home. Jason was ‘made to do things no child should ever, ever have to do’. He was regularly tortured, beaten and brutalised by staff. So much so that his spine was permanently twisted, a condition for which he received no medical treatment.

Years later, Jason told Ebony that he also saw other children being pulled from their beds at night and sexually assaulted. Jason stayed in the children’s home for about seven years, until he was 13 or 14.

Jason separated from Ebony’s mother when Ebony was very young. She grew up with her mother and stepfather. Ebony’s earliest memory of her father was when he came over to visit them when she was four. Jason was drunk. Her stepfather hated Ebony and her brother and they were treated cruelly. Ebony became a troubled teenager. At the age of 12, ‘I ran away, looked for my dad, went to the cop shop. They basically said his criminal record is longer than his arm and that I’m probably best not to know him'. They informed her he was in jail. Ebony had her first drug overdose at 13.

After separating from Ebony’s mother, Jason formed a relationship with Jude. They had children. Although Jason was a fun-loving and ‘beautiful’ man with a ‘heart of gold’, he also drank heavily and became violent. Jude said she could handle it when it was just her but once she had the children, she needed to end the relationship in order to protect them. Jason spent his life in and out of jail.

Ebony also got into a relationship with an alcoholic man who was violent. They had a child together and separated. Ebony had a number of abusive relationships until she decided to remain single. She also had a range of addictions, for 10 years. ‘I felt like drugs were my rock. I didn’t need anybody but I hid it well. I dressed well. I had straight friends.’ She finally overcame these addictions and got into exercising. She reconnected with her father, who was wonderful with her daughter - very caring and trustworthy but also hypervigilant.

Although Jason never told the police about his childhood abuse in the home, he spoke of it frequently to Jude and, years later, to Ebony. As Ebony recalls in a letter to the Anglican diocese ‘You just knew when he brought up the home. Mixed with alcohol. “Look out!” He would sometimes just snap. And I mean snap.’ One particular ‘snap’ occurred at Ebony’s house when Jason became so angry he smashed doors and the wall of a shed. Ebony had to call the police and she didn’t see her father for two years after that, during which time Jason drank heavily and was sometimes homeless.

‘[Jason] made it up to me in such a big way. I was so proud of him … I was stubborn … I can be rude when I’m stubborn. He just loved me unconditionally. Honestly, I’ve never really had that before … I didn’t know he was dying, I knew he wasn’t well … and most likely I did it to him because of that fight.’ Jason, then in his early 50s, was sick with liver disease.

Ebony’s brother, Richard, met Jason after many years of estrangement. ‘Richard was so over the moon. So excited. “He’s just so cool. He’s unreal. I wish I had met him a long time ago”. … and then a few months after that he was dead. That crushed Richard.’ Ebony’s daughter was also devastated at the early loss of her grandfather.

In recent years, Richard too has been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Ebony was looking after her brother at the time and had a breakdown.

Meanwhile, Jude’s sons are very angry they didn’t get to have their father around as they grew up, although Jude ensured they had supervised visits with him. Both her sons have become heavy drinkers. ‘It had a big toll on everybody.’

Jude and Ebony recalled that some of Jason’s mates from the home committed suicide. One of them was only 15 years old at the time. This always had a big impact on Jason. ‘My dad, I see him as he suicided but a slow death … He didn’t care about himself at all.’ But he did care about his children and Ebony recalls ‘He was worried about his kids. He ran out of time. He did change ... He spoke of [Jude’s] kids … He really wanted to see them. He just felt like he’d let them down so much'.

Before Jason died an article appeared in the newspaper about the children’s home and the abuse that had occurred there. Ebony showed it to her father. ‘His face lit up’ and he asked her to follow it up for him.

Ebony and Jude have followed it up. They informed the Anglican Church of Jason’s abuse and the effects it has had on their families. They were disappointed to receive a response that said they, as secondary victims, were not entitled to compensation. Ebony is receiving support from Bravehearts. As Jason’s abusers are deceased - one suicided - there is no further recourse.

Ebony and Jude continue to unite their two families which, due to Ebony’s efforts, met in recent years. ‘His family is all ripped apart. We’re all ripped apart. And for me, Ebony’s pulled the family back.’

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