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Eddie James's story

‘I told a couple of mates and it was laughed off pretty much, that it was a woman and as if it was a kind of bonus thing – older woman, younger bloke.’

In the late 1980s at Eddie’s state primary school in western Sydney, a female nurse came to check the children for curvature of the spine.

Eddie was sent into a room with her. She told him to take off his shirt and bend forward and she ran her finger along his spine to conduct the check.

‘Then when I stood up I went to put my top back on and she said, “I haven’t finished yet”. She said, “I need to check to see if you’ve wet yourself”. I’m not too sure how old I was, I think I was around 10 or 11 years old. I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with that, I thought it was part of the process. And then that’s when she pulled my pants down and she masturbated me in that room. While she was doing it she kept saying that I was dirty because I’d wet myself and I shouldn’t have wet myself.’

Eddie said he didn’t realise the nurse had done anything wrong, instead thinking he had done something wrong because she’d told him off for ‘so-called’ wetting himself. He said he understands now it was the other way around but at the time he was confused and embarrassed. As a consequence he didn’t tell anyone what had happened.

As he went through life it came up sometimes in conversations with his friends but the incident was always dismissed with a joke. However, it did affect him.

‘It wasn’t normal. It was the first time I had experienced that, obviously. The smell gets to me because it was something I hadn’t smelt before and even to how old I am now, I can see it has affected me in my normal life with partners and things like that.

‘It’s nothing compared to what other people have gone through, I understand what some other people have gone through with sexual abuse, but it definitely put me on a path of just not really feeling safe around strangers, things like that.’

He never had counselling about the incident, because he’d never told anybody.

As a young adult, Eddie was witness to a violent incident that affected him very badly and he started using drugs to try to block it out.

‘I was offered counselling by the police. They gave me a number to ring and I rang the number and no one was in the office and I never rang back. I felt a bit weak that I couldn’t handle it by myself and cope with what had happened. Obviously I couldn’t cope with it.’

He became a heavy drug user, which led to significant criminal activity and his current lengthy jail term.

He told the Commissioner that he started thinking about the abuse when he was housed in a protection unit with a lot of sex offenders.

‘I see the way they carry on, a lot of them carry on, and they have no shame about what they’ve done. And it started bringing things back in my head and I thought well, you know, it’s not normal what happened to me.’

He decided to come forward when officers from the Royal Commission visited his jail to share information about the Commission’s work. He then told his mother about it for the first time and said she was supportive but horrified and upset that he hadn’t told her before.

‘I’m a peer supporter and I thought if I tell my story it might be a bit easier for other people as well. There may be other people that are affected by it and maybe not too confident about telling other people. So I thought if I can go tell my story and know it was handled pretty well, maybe they’ll open up as well.’

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