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Jake's story

Jake was born in the United Kingdom and came to Australia in the early 1950s as part of the Child Migrant Scheme. Aged seven, he was placed into the care of the Christian Brothers near Perth, and he stayed with them until he was 14 years old, when he got a job and left.

In a written report and in speaking with the Commissioner, Jake said physical and sexual abuse in the home was commonplace. The Brothers each had a strap made of three pieces of leather with a hacksaw sewn in between.

‘The way we were physically and sexually abused made it a really tough life. The sexual abuse affected me the most. We were young and didn’t know what sexual abuse was, and we didn’t know that it was abnormal. We were locked behind those gates, too afraid to run away because of the punishment waiting on your return.’

Abuse perpetrated by the Christian Brothers was widespread. Jake told the Commissioner that he was repeatedly sexually abused by four different Brothers during his seven years in the boys’ homes. He described one of the Brothers continuing to anally rape him even though he was bleeding and screaming for him to stop. ‘Half the kids heard, but they couldn’t do anything.’ Similarly, Jake would be unable to do anything when he heard his friends being raped.

As a bed wetter, Jake slept on an exposed veranda with other boys who did the same and they were particularly singled out for punishment. Jake’s bedwetting stopped as soon as he left the home.

It was a regular occurrence for boys in the dormitories to be woken and told to go to one or other of the Brothers’ rooms, where they would be sexually assaulted. Incidents occurred in other locations and also involved abuse by other boys. Jake said that as a seven-year-old he didn’t know any different and only later realised it was wrong.

He believed his history as a child contributed to him later abusing alcohol, and being homeless and unable to form relationships. He attributed his alcohol abuse as the causal factor for behaviour that included disorderly conduct and offences against minors. He couldn’t recall details of his abuse of minors, because he said he was intoxicated at the time it occurred.

A child migrant reunion scheme resulted in Jake returning to the United Kingdom, but the visit wasn’t a success. ‘I found family and they treated me like a stranger. I’ve never been back since.’

Jake participated in WA Redress and was awarded an ex-gratia payment of $45,000. He viewed the decision to decrease the payment from $80,000 as terrible and said the accompanying apology letter meant nothing to him. He hadn’t considered approaching the Catholic Church for compensation and didn’t think he would.

The aged care residential facility in which Jake now lives is a continual reminder to him of his time in the boys’ homes. ‘I hate it. I hate it. It reminds me of [the boys’ home] without the abuse. The fence there. I can’t live somewhere like there. Not only are the gates locked, the walls are 12 feet high. It doesn’t work. When they send you to a place like that, all the abuse comes back, the cruelty. Even though it doesn’t exist there, it comes back. I hate it.’

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