Grant James's story

‘I had bad role models in my life, all the way along. No one told me nothing that was good. That’s why I left home at the age of 10 because they were going to kill me at home. And I said, “Well, if you’re going to kill me at home I’d much rather take my chances out there”.’

Grant was the youngest in a very large family growing up in a poor area of Sydney in the early 1960s. He was mostly left to fend for himself.

‘My dad was a sailor. That explains it. My brothers were doing things they shouldn’t have been doing. They were using drugs. My sisters, one of them was working on the streets, and Mum was in the pub all the time. I found the only way I could survive was to steal money from the poor boxes at the churches, which I’m not very happy about.’

When he was eight his mother took her own life, after which Grant said he didn’t speak for the next five years. Half of the children were fostered out and Grant has lost track of most of them since.

A few years he broke into an old lady’s home and, on the instruction of his father, was sent to an Anglican-run boys’ home. While he lived there, he was sexually abused on his way to school and on his way back by a man who would wait for him in a van on the roadside.

Grant said the man would lure him into the van with the promise of vouchers to a fast food restaurant. He reported the abuse to his carers at the home but they didn’t believe him.

‘I told them straight away what was going on and they used to cane me and say I was lying. And I would bleed across the back of the legs …

‘What I can’t get my head around – it’s duty of care. The boys’ home knew what was going on, they didn’t do anything like tell the police, they didn’t go to the authorities … they didn’t do anything whatsoever to prevent it. They used to punish me every day and send me to school.’

He didn’t know at the time that what happened to him was a crime and he was too scared to go to the authorities. After some time in the home, he went before the courts for the break and enter. ‘The judge gave me a dressing down and said get your life back in order. That’s why my life became sorted … I have no criminal record whatsoever because of that.’

In his early teens he was living in the rectory of an Anglican church, and he met a policeman, William Johnson, who was doing a stake-out on the church grounds. Johnson also turned up at church services and after a while he enticed Grant to go and live with him. Once Grant was in his home, Johnson sexually abused him almost straight away.

Grant said he thinks he was made more vulnerable to the grooming by Johnson because of the earlier sexual abuse. He lived with Johnson in various houses in New South Wales then moved with him to Queensland.

‘I moved up here ‘cause I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to go back to my family because that wasn’t very pleasant. With all my experiences of everything I’d gone through, I’d just had enough of them.’

By this time he was about 15 and he stayed with Johnson for a number of years.

He said Johnson had to have known his age: ‘It was obvious, I was very young … He knew my age because he was there for my 21st birthday. There were other boys there, too … Johnson would just take in boys, I never knew why. It was obvious in the end.’

He said there were multiple reasons he didn’t come forward, including that he’d had no education, the fact that Johnson had been a policeman and was also a member of the Freemasons. Johnson was also very generous with gifts such as motorbikes, which Grant now understands was part of the grooming behaviour.

At some point he tried to get Johnson into trouble by phoning his employer. Johnson had by then left the police force and was working with children with intellectual disabilities. Grant told them he’d been abused by Johnson and he thought they should know, but they told him never to phone there again or they’d call the police. He didn’t take the matter any further.

Grant said the abuse he suffered had an impact on him from a young age.

‘From the time I was in the boys’ home, from the age of 12 to 21, all I wanted to do was just die. Seriously. I didn’t want to live. If there was a quick way to do it I would have done it.

‘I drank, I drank. I’ve been sober for 27 years but I drank quite heavily when I was younger because I was hoping that would kill me too.’

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which he’s able to manage with medication, and his mental health assessment includes hypervigilance, low moods, nightmares, intrusive memories and anxiety, as well as difficulty sleeping and controlling his emotions.

Grant has made significant efforts in recent years to overcome his issues. He has been married for 14 years and he and his wife have a daughter. His wife knows of his abuse and his close family have been a great support, along with counselling services he uses regularly.

‘There’s been times where I’ve just not wanted to live, many times, many, but I find that recently, no matter what I’m going through, life’s worth living. [My wife and daughter] are part and parcel of why life’s worth living.’

He said he doesn’t trust anyone in life and will never get over the abuse. But he is learning to manage how he deals with his past.

‘Sometimes when you’ve been through war, you want to declare war. Really … that’s not the answer, that’s not the way to go about it. Anger’s okay, but you’ve got to learn to put it in its box … You don’t know what the other person’s going through. You don’t know how bad their day’s been, you don’t know how their life has been … Other people have got their stuff that they have to live with … so you have to show compassion to them as well.’

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