‘It’s probably weird to say, I have some sort of connection there ... Probably because I was groomed or something like that. And I still feel like I don’t want to get this person into trouble. But I do want to say something about it, and not let the person do it again.’
It was very hard for Grant to speak with the Royal Commission about Father Simpkins, the Anglican pastor who had sexually abused him as a child. He still keeps in contact with Simpkins, and felt some loyalty towards him. He didn’t want to cause him any harm. Still, he wanted to prevent Simpkins abusing other kids.
Grant had a turbulent childhood, moving around different foster homes. None of his placements ever seemed to work out, but he doesn’t remember anyone from Welfare ever checking up on him.
By the early 2000s, when Grant was 16, Welfare had apparently run out of options to house him. They provided him with a tent, and booked him space in a caravan park. He soon found himself in trouble with police, and was sentenced to time in a juvenile justice centre.
This is where Grant first met Simpkins. The pastor befriended him, talking to him and providing pastoral care. Grant had never had anyone take such an interest in him. ‘I’d never really had anybody that had sort of looked after me.’
Simpkins began to hug and kiss Grant when they met, and took photos of him, and slowly the physical contact increased. He allowed Grant to visit him at his house when on day leave, and showed him a film – ‘it was actually that fucking Brokeback Mountain shit’.
In the bedroom, Simpkins sexually assaulted Grant. When he returned Grant to the centre, he smuggled in cigarettes for him. This abuse happened a number of times, both at Simpkins’ house and also at the centre.
Even though Grant had a girlfriend, ‘I swear the bloke had me convinced that I was fucking gay ... We had a lot of discussions about sexuality and stuff like that’.
Grant suggested that there should be careful monitoring and CCTV in juvenile detention facilities, to prevent abuse happening. He thinks staff at the centre may have been aware something was going on with Simpkins, as ‘I’d had a couple of comments’.
He remained at the centre for around six months, and was released not long after his 18th birthday. He visited Simpkins after he was released, and the abuse occurred again.
After this, Grant tried to avoid seeing Simpkins. When they did catch up, Simpkins would try to be physically affectionate, and tried to increase the intensity and intimacy of their interactions.
‘He gave me a ring, and it’s a ring he wears as well.’ On this occasion Simpkins took Grant to a church. ‘I remember he had a piece of paper, and wanted me to read something off it.’ Grant can’t remember what the words were. He ended up losing the ring at the beach.
Grant believes that he is likely not the only person abused by Simpkins, as he has seen pictures of other boys on the pastor’s computer.
He recalls a conversation with Simpkins, ‘that maybe one day, he’d want to call me as a witness, to say he was a good person’. He also got Grant to sign something, but Grant is not sure what this document was about.
As Grant grew older, he got into more serious trouble with police, and ended up in adult prison. Simpkins visited him there. In his early 20s, Grant was drugged and raped by his cellmate.
This man was charged for the offence, and Grant received criminal injuries compensation. He imagined what he could do with this payment after he was released.
‘I’ll use this money to get my life back on track, and I’ll set myself up, and get myself a place to stay, and I’ll furnish the place, and I’ll go and see a psych ... To be honest, I got out and bought a bike, and that was my therapy.’
Grant told the Commissioner that the only thing that gives him joy is riding motorbikes. At one point, Simpkins even bought a bike so they could go riding together.
When Grant was incarcerated again, he lost the bike he had bought with the payout. ‘Stuff gets too much for me, and then I need to go for a ride ... That’s my out in life. I don’t care for anything else. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink alcohol, nothing like that.’
He stole bikes just so he could ride when he really needed to, leading to further trouble with the law.
Grant said he is ‘only just starting to realise now’ the impacts of the abuse on his mental health. ‘I’m a very angry person these days, I’m very rebellious against authority in general. And I mean, I feel dead inside.’
Although Grant has a ‘beautiful’ partner who he knows loves him, he feels that he cannot love her. ‘I don’t feel love at all. It’s like, I don’t feel love against anybody though.’
Grant has not applied for financial compensation for the abuse by Simpkins, and says an apology would mean nothing to him. He would, however, accept counselling if it was offered.
Having attempted suicide both in custody and in the community, Grant can feel his mental health declining again. He feels numb, and can’t trust anyone. ‘My cellmate reckons I’m cold-hearted, I’ve got no emotion there inside he reckons.’
There is nobody Grant fully trusts, or wants to have beside him in his life. He isn’t really sure how he has survived this long. ‘I don’t know. I just get through. Who’s going to listen? Who cares, really?’