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Heath James's story

Heath was born into a large family in regional Western Australia in the 1970s. His parents often fought at home and they moved around the state several times before ending their marriage when Heath was 13.

In the mid-1980s Heath and his siblings moved with their mother to a new area, and Heath was enrolled in the local primary school. He described himself as a troublemaker who had a hard time concentrating at school. ‘[I] just didn’t want to learn.’ He was often punished for his misbehaviour.

He came into regular contact with Mr Daniels, the principal of the school. Mr Daniels was a scary man who often inflicted harsh punishments to those who misbehaved. Heath was sent to Daniels ‘at least three times a week’ for his disruptions in class. He recalls being held down and having his arms twisted by Daniels several times during his year at the school. He knew of one boy at the school who had his arm broken by Daniels.

One afternoon, Heath was sent to Daniels’s office for speaking out in class. Daniels yelled at him and wrestled him to the ground, as Heath was used to. Then he raped him. Daniels raped Heath every time he was sent to his office from then on.

‘He’d just pull his pants down and insert his penis … Every time I went down there it happened.’

The abuse continued for a year. Heath couldn’t tell anyone what was happening because Daniels was the principal and he was scared of him. Daniels made sure that Heath knew who was in power.

Heath started acting out and would run away from school during lunch ‘to get away from it’. He was never asked why he kept running away.

When he was in Year 8, Heath was expelled from high school and he never completed his education.

As a teenager, he started stealing from stores and was dealing drugs. He was caught and sent to a juvenile justice facility for two years. When he was 17 Heath received a custodial sentence and was sent to adult jail.

As an adult, Heath has spent 18 years in and out of prison. He abused drugs for several years and has a long criminal history. He has only had one long-term relationship, which broke down. He doesn’t trust authority figures and struggles to trust people. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has attempted suicide several times and describes himself as an ‘angry person’.

In the mid-2000s Heath disclosed the details of his abuse to his mother and she found it very upsetting.

Heath has never had counselling, and coming to the Royal Commission was only the second time he had disclosed the sexual abuse he’d experienced as a child. He had intended to apply to Redress WA for compensation, but he missed out because of his jail sentence.

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