‘When you are a child you are told about monsters and you grow up and you forget about those, and you realise they're not true. But there are monsters out there.’
During the 1970s, Elijah was raised in a single parent home in a suburb of Sydney. His mother worked two jobs and found her schedule difficult to maintain when her children weren’t at school. When Elijah was seven years old, he attended a YMCA camp outside Sydney for a week over the summer break.
He found the camp exciting as there were lots of activities, but this is where he came into contact with Jackson Dyer, a YMCA worker.
Dyer was charismatic and musically talented and the kids loved him. He would play the current popular songs that they all knew from the radio. Elijah was excited when he struck up a conversation about cars.
‘He told me he worked at a toy factory and that he could get me a car racing set. Also he could take me away on holidays after YMCA finished.’
After the camp finished, he kept in contact with Dyer. Dyer then approached his mother and offered her ‘respite’ by taking him out on weekends. He recalls his mother being ‘charmed’ by Dyer and immediately taking up his offer of care. Elijah said he’s sure his mother thought Dyer was a trustworthy guardian.
‘[My mother] wanted to have somebody who was a positive male role model around.’
He went on several weekend trips with Dyer over a one year period. Dyer also took one of his friends, Frank, on some of these trips. On one occasion, Dyer took both boys to his house, where he persuaded Frank to go into the bedroom with him. They were inside for a long time and Elijah said Frank had a ‘look of horror’ on his face when he came out of the room.
When Elijah was eight, he was invited to go on a trip on his own with Dyer. They went to a caravan park outside Sydney and stayed there for the night. Elijah shared the bed with Dyer and Dyer’s girlfriend and when the girlfriend was asleep, Dyer sexually assaulted him.
‘I was in the middle and he was lying on the right hand side … He tried to get me to perform oral sex on him and he performed oral sex on me … He was telling me it was his birthday and that he’s got a present for me.’
After the trip ended, he never contacted Dyer again. He didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because he didn’t understand what had happened. He went through primary school as a quiet student and remained that way through high school. He said he lied a lot, despite feeling uncomfortable about lying.
In the late 1980s when he was 16, Elijah started to abuse drugs and alcohol. He suffered from night terrors and had difficulty trusting people, especially men. In his late teenage years, he committed criminal offences and was in custody several times. He also became ‘angry’ and violent.
‘I hurt somebody and I’ve never been a violent person. It wasn’t until then that I had a really good look at myself and all my thinking that led me to where I was that day. I’m not talking about just from the abuse, I’m talking about the different institutions that I ended up in from not coping from the abuse.’
It wasn’t until his 18th birthday that Elijah disclosed the details of the abuse. He was in custody when he confided in a prison superintendent. The superintendent told him to disclose the abuse to his mother so he wouldn’t ‘feel alone’. He said that after telling the guard, ‘that was the beginning’ of him ‘becoming honest’ and changing his life.
Following the superintendent’s advice, he told his mother about Dyer. He said she was ‘destroyed’ with guilt and very upset. The superintendent also told him to report Dyer to the police and he had every intention of doing so, but cancelled the appointment. He became anxious that he would be mistaken for a paedophile in jail and thus be the target for physical abuse.
In the late 2000s, he approached the YMCA to report the abuse. He said he was ‘fobbed off’ by the organisation and they claimed that they never employed Dyer. Soon after that, he discovered that Dyer had been charged with possession of child pornography and sexual assault of other children through the 1980s and in recent years. He said Dyer’s sentence was ‘not long enough’.