In the mid-80s, around the age of 12, Jai joined a church youth group in suburban Perth. ‘I didn’t have the greatest home life. My dad was a bit physically abusive, so it was good to get out of the house. It was a bit of an escape for me, initially.
‘As things progressed there I felt betrayed by it.’
There was one adult who ran the youth group, and another dozen or so leaders. ‘Basically the word “leader” was just a title for a volunteer’, Jai said.
Not long after joining, he was sexually abused by one of these leaders, Pat Gleashan. The first instance involved Gleashan pushing him up against a wall and grabbing his genitals. Another time Gleashan followed Jai into the toilets, put him in a headlock and masturbated him. He then threatened to kill Jai if he told anyone.
Several weeks later Gleashan drove Jai to a remote location. On the way he said he was going to rape him and 'he was going to enjoy it'. Afterwards, Jai remembered being in great pain and bleeding. Gleashan again warned him to keep quiet, this time threatening to kill his mother. But Jai had no one to tell.
‘My father used to drink quite excessively … Mum was sort of like the victim of him. He wasn’t physically violent towards her he was just abusive, I’d say mentally and psychologically. He was physically abusive to me, so I learnt to shut things out, bottle up things pretty much …
‘I felt my mother was going through enough, I didn’t want to burden her with that. And I was pretty ashamed … Didn’t really understand it. Frightened, to be honest.’
Jai believes Gleashan was a serial predator, and that the church knew it. ‘I heard a rumour that one of the other survivors had family that went to the elders. And their response was that we’d pray for them. So, it was pretty much pointless to speak to them about it. I didn’t have much faith.’
Jai felt the first impacts of the abuse immediately. He stopped caring about his schoolwork and said he was truant for half of Year 10. Even sport, which he excelled at, was no longer important.
‘The school counsellor spoke to me about if I had issues at home, because that was the first thing they suspected … They spoke to my father and Dad just sort of run me down, said that I was an uncoordinated kid, not interested in school. That was it. That was all that was ever done. I was too scared to say anything against Dad.’
It was another traumatic event almost 20 years later that forced Jai to deal with his pain.
‘When Mum passed away I took it pretty bad and found it pretty hard … I felt that sense of loss. All of a sudden one day all my emotions just burst, and I just came out with it. Told a counsellor.’
When Jai came to the Royal Commission he was still seeing a psychologist regularly for depression and PTSD. ‘I have nightmares quite often about it. I don’t know if you call them nightmares, flashbacks, I don’t really know how to describe them. I call them flashbacks because they’re quite vivid …
‘I know I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of but I still do feel guilt for not speaking out, because I’m not the only victim. I’ve been aware of that my whole life. You know, “What if I said something? What if I did something?”
‘I know it’s not my fault, I know I was only a kid. But you still live with the what ifs.’
Not long after his mother’s death Jai reported Gleashan to the police, which he said was a positive experience. He also contacted the church, which offered to pay for 10 counselling sessions. ‘They communicate once a month with me, just to say that they’ve contacted their insurer, and they’re praying for me, and all the rest of that sort of stuff.’
The free legal service, knowmore, put Jai in touch with a solicitor, who is preparing a claim for compensation. Jai would also like an apology, not just for himself but for the other children abused by Gleashan.
Jai is self-employed so if he doesn’t work he doesn’t get paid. During a bout of severe depression his doctor ordered him to take a month off, which meant going to Centrelink. ‘They gave me a very hard time. Very intrusive …
‘They said, “Well, why are you on sickness? Why are you claiming sickness benefits for 30 days?” I said, “Well, it’s a sensitive issue, I’d rather not talk to you about it” ...
‘The entire staff all the way through was like that. The telephone service … just no sensitivity at all through the whole system. Male, female, didn’t matter …
‘I remember feeling, if somebody was absolutely traumatised and in a very distraught, distressed manner, they wouldn’t have got through that …
‘And I thought, something needs to be done about that …
‘Yeah, horrible thing to go through.’
Jai recommended chemical castration for sex offenders, an approach he said is having results overseas. But he also came to the Royal Commission in the hope of making a difference.
‘I just thought, if I told you guys it might help in the future. Dealing with other, future events that could happen to other children. It’s something that shouldn’t be in society.’