Jarrell’s experience is unusual in that for a long time he didn’t remember his abuse or his abuser. It only came back to him during a drug-induced psychotic episode when he was in his mid-20s.
‘I was taking recreational drugs. I wasn’t addicted or anything like that, I was just social experimenting … what had happened is I left the nightclub, got to the corner and started getting all these smells back at me. Really bad stuff, like the urine cakes they used to have in urinals … it was so strong that everything that was in front of me was a blank and I had visions. It’s like I was back there … The next minute I woke up and I was on the ground … This was my experience of remembering everything that had happened to me.’
In the early 1980s, when Jarrell was about six, he was placed in the care of his Aboriginal grandmother in Victoria. He said he often went to Sunday schools, Lions clubs and scout clubs and he thinks the abuse must have happened during those outings. He has had memories of being abused in a public toilet, in a park and in a car.
Nobody remarked on a change in his behaviour at the time, but from the age of six he started getting into a lot of trouble, doing things like smoking cigarettes and stealing.
‘They’d take me down to the local police station and – because I was too young to be charged a lot of the time – they’d get the officer in charge to have a chat to me and they’d ask me “Why are you doing this, why are you stealing, why are you getting into trouble?” And I didn’t have any idea why. So I’d really blocked the memory of it. Because I’d gone through this shocking event I’d totally blocked it.’
He does remember one perpetrator, who was a health worker at an Aboriginal health service.
‘He’d seen me in the street and baited me to go. That was another event that flashed back and I remembered his face and everything.’
The one time somebody might have noticed something was when he was about 13 and needed to have his appendix removed. He had a full examination and he recalled the doctor saying ‘this kid’s been anally penetrated’. But nobody followed up and the remark was forgotten.
When all the abuse started coming back in flashbacks, it turned into a pivotal time in his life.
‘I tried to supress all my emotions and memories with speed, ecstasy, cocaine. I poured into everything, alcohol, and supressed it for about two years. Then it just exploded when I was about 26. I had a psychotic emotional breakdown and ended up in rehab for two years.’
Jarrell had counselling and remained sober for nine years. But after he had his son, things started getting bad again. The boy lived with him fulltime but when the mother was awarded 51 per cent custody, Jarrell felt like he couldn’t keep him safe anymore. He knew she was taking drugs and was in an abusive relationship, and he attempted to kidnap his son. This was the act that landed him in jail, where he was when he had his private session.
‘Because of the fear in me from my own childhood, it’s made me … now that I have a son, when they took him he was five years old, so he’s at that age where I was and it was a big trigger. I didn’t realise that until I come to jail.’
Jarrell said he has many emotions around what happened to him, including rage, guilt, disgust, fear and shame, and he has to continue to manage these. He knows that, like him, men find resorting to anger an easy way out.
He’s not sure if there is a good way to stop kids feeling shame when they are sexually abused.
‘I think it’s just a natural reaction for a boy … boys are being tough and that’s where a lot of the reality of speaking up and coming forward is harder for boys … How do you change that? You’ve got to change the whole society for that to change. It’s a slow process.’