Jared grew up in Queensland in the 1980s. When he was 12 his mother ‘turned gay’ and kicked him out of home when she was forced to choose between her partner and Jared.
Jared had a friend whose parents were bikies and he went to live with them for a while. These people were drug dealers ‘growing drugs, making speed, doing all of it. They had their fingers in every pie’. Jared told the Commissioner that at the time, ‘I was just along for the ride … I didn’t realise … what they were actually doing’.
After he left his friend’s place Jared moved from couch to couch until he was eventually made a ward of the state at 13. He then moved from foster home to foster home until a judge sent him to a juvenile justice centre run by the De La Salle Brothers when he was 15.
‘I was a delinquent, you know, right up until I came to God, which was about five or six years ago. So I was doing robberies with violence, I was hurting people, stealing cars, breaking and entering, burgs, arson.’
When he first arrived at the juvenile justice centre he heard stories about abuse, but he didn’t believe them. ‘Some of the stories were like “How about the toothbrush being shoved up your bum” … None of it was true. It’s just scare tactics … But no one actually mentioned the real abuse. You had to see it and feel it with your own eyes and your, you know, your own senses.’
Jared told the Commissioner that he was physically and sexually abused when he was at the centre. He also witnessed other boys physically and emotionally abused by staff. He recalls one boy beaten by their cottage parents, who wrapped a towel around his neck and ‘bounced his head against the wall’. When Jared went to check on the boy later, ‘his face was swollen by approximately 50 per cent’. The boy was taken to the hospital and Jared never saw him again.
Jared also believes that he was drugged. He and four other boys were given a ‘special drink’ in ‘a little plastic doctor cup’ by their cottage dad, under orders from one of the Brothers. ‘I recall experiencing pain in my backside … I could feel things happening but I could not respond.’
When he regained focus Jared could see two of the Brothers standing by his bed, one of them in a state of undress. ‘I told them I was in pain … I asked them to help me. He gave me another drink.’ He then passed out completely. When he woke up the next morning, he found it difficult to stand up and he fell to the floor as he attempted to walk to the bathroom.
At 15, one of the relief cottage mothers began having sexual relations with Jared. Jared saw this 35-year-old woman as his partner and moved in with her when he left the centre at 16.
A complaint was made to the police about the relationship and Jared was interviewed by police. He denied having a sexual relationship with her and no charges were laid. Jared was troubled by the stigma of ‘peer pressure, all of that … along with her being my partner, you know. If she’s your partner you don’t dob your partner in … it’s you guys against the world’.
Jared told the Commissioner that he finds the whole experience with his cottage mother ‘disappointing. Because in my frame of mind I was a child. I was childlike. It’s not hard to convince a child that what you’re doing is good and it’s okay and it’s right. It’s not hard at all’. What he thought was a consensual relationship when he was 16, he now realises was abuse.
Jared has spent time in jail for robberies and other offences. He was ‘the baddest … and getting worse’. When he saw the change in a fellow inmate, who had transformed from ‘a black sheep to a beautiful white sheep … I wanted to know more, so I asked him about it and he … gave his life to Jesus. And from there I gave my life to Jesus and haven’t looked back’.
‘Gradually I went from getting out of prison to … getting into you know, work and then consistently have a good routine where I’m not really using drugs or anything and then, you know, not doing crime.’ Jared now has his own small business and is very involved with his church.
Although Jared tried to report the Brothers and the cottage mother to the police a few years ago, he was told that neither case would be pursued. This was because he had been drugged and he didn’t see who had assaulted him, and because he had denied the sexual relationship with the cottage mother at the time.
Jared would like to see some kind of program introduced into schools to teach children how to report abuse. ‘When I was in school there was nothing preparing me to drop … you don’t dob in anyone. You don’t be a tattletale. There’s nothing in there to support you when you do have to tell, to step up to make a difference.’
Jared told the Commissioner, ‘Part of living is being able to defend for yourself and they don’t have that … there’s nothing in there to help you as a group … to stand up and fend for your rights’.