Jake Edward's story

‘My mum was on heroin, on marijuana – you know, anything you could get your hands on. So therefore the house was an unfit house.’

Jake was made a ward of the state in the mid 1970s, when he was eight. He spent a month in a receiving home, before being sent to a boys’ home in regional New South Wales, where he stayed until he was 19.

In the receiving home one of the youth workers used to come to his room at night and ‘tickle me back and, you know, take it a little bit further down there. And I reported it. The next day he was gone … But that’s the first time I’ve ever mentioned that.’

Jake loved sport and joined every team he could. When he was placed in foster care with his aunt and uncle, he lasted only a few months, and then he asked to return to the boys’ home. ‘Being in [the boys’ home] once, and having all that sport and school, it had everything I needed that they could not give me, so that was why I put myself back.’

Jake had several different house parents, but when he was 11 there was one house father who ‘put the fear into the whole lot of us’. Mr Vickers would get the boys up in the middle of the night and ‘you’d be up till sun up making your beds … Even if it was perfect, he’d still tip over the bed and say, “Do it again”.’

At times Vickers made the boys ‘stand up with the nose against the wall, that close’ from six o’clock in the evening until one o’clock in the morning. ‘You fell asleep, you got that steel-capped shoe right up your bum. You never fell asleep again.’ If he walked past a boy who flinched, ‘you got a backhander. So you learnt from that first time … you didn’t flinch. That’s the way he was.’

Vickers sexually abused Jake for the two years that he worked at the boys’ home. The first time, he called Jake to his office and ‘told me to pull it out. All he wanted to do was show me where my tickle spot was and he grabbed me and showed me how to masturbate … I didn’t say anything to anyone. I went straight to my room. Another boy went in after …’ but the two never talked about what happened.

Every time the boys went on camping trips, Vickers made sure he shared a tent with Jake. ‘If we were in the tent for 12 hours, he would masturbate me for 12 hours.’

The first time it happened at camp, Jake told all the other boys from his cottage, but ‘they didn’t want to hear about it … Every single one of them boys. What he did. I come out the next morning and I said, “He did this to me last night, all night, rah, rah, rah” but they didn’t want to know anything about it’. Jake believes that this was because they were all too scared of Vickers.

Jake never told his family about the abuse because ‘it was a pride thing … It’s just them sort of things in my family. Back in them days, in their words, “You’re a poof. Get out of my way” – and I hate to say it, but that’s how it was in my family’.

As an adult, Jake has suffered from depression, and relationship problems, and now uses alcohol and marijuana to help him sleep. ‘I don’t like my mind … I can’t sleep if my mind’s ticking, so I’ve got to knock myself out to sleep. I have to have a beer every night to sleep.’

On one occasion Jake took a combination of pills and alcohol, and an ambulance had to be called. ‘It was lucky I took the wrong pills. Ever since that day I don’t try to go overboard. I just do what I need to do to sleep.’

Jake believes that he got through his childhood because of all the sport he played and because he had some good friends who lived at the home with him. ‘It was more family than anything else. Some guys are in there for four years, five years. Next day, you wake up, they’re gone. That was the sad thing about it.’

Jake told the Commissioner, ‘I only just come out with it last year, so I’ve sort of held onto it for however long’. He told his mother about the abuse, just before she died, and she made him promise to come forward to the Royal Commission. ‘So I’m glad I got it done … I’ve had it all out.’

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