‘I just want to know – why wasn’t anything done then? … If somebody would’ve just picked up my file and looked at it they would’ve seen it all. But nobody did, or whoever did they didn’t care.’
As an 11-year-old, Jarrett immediately reported the sexual abuse he suffered to people he thought would be able to help.
In the early 1990s he was sent to a children’s home run by the Department of Community Services [DOCS] in Sydney’s north. His mother had been looking after him, but she made some bad choices and was sent to prison for two years. Jarrett felt frightened on day one at the home. ‘Horrible’, he told the Commissioner. ‘I hated it.’
Two weeks into his stay Jarrett was grabbed by one of the staff, Oliver, while they were alone in the recreation room.
‘I was pretty much belted and wrestled to the ground where he tore off my clothes and sodomised me. I recall passing out, and when I came to I was freezing cold. I was dripping wet.
‘My backside was burning. And I went and I told the matron and she went off at me and dragged me to the shower and turned it on and held me there. Then she walked out – I didn’t know what to do. I was horrified, terrified.’
Jarrett was isolated from the other children and told to speak to no one that night. ‘And the next day I went and tried to tell a youth worker about it … they said they will tell someone and they’d get back to me. And nothing happened.’
A few days later on an excursion, Jarrett was made to put his hand on Oliver’s thigh. Soon after Oliver tried to abuse him in a secluded part of the playground. Jarrett escaped and reported the man again. ‘I told the youth worker again, told her that he’d just tried to do it to me again. I watched the female youth worker go down and speak to him and still nothing happened.
‘So I ran away that day.’
It was the first of many escape attempts. Jarrett was picked up by police and taken to a youth detention centre, where he was interviewed by a social worker, Denise West. ‘She said to me, “Why did you run away?” And I told her. I burst out in tears and I started screaming at her. She told me to grow up, you know, grow up and pretty much accept it. “That’s where kids like you belong, in a home like that”.’
He was sent back to the same children’s home, where Oliver was waiting.
One day Jarrett was playing a game of hide and seek with other children in one of the buildings. He emerged from his hiding place to find the room deserted. Then Oliver appeared. He grabbed Jarrett, whose cries for help went unanswered.
‘I wet myself. He told me to be quiet and he put his hand over my mouth … Because I didn’t want to get beaten the way I was the first time, I sort of went along with him. I didn’t want it to hurt so much … it didn’t stop him from being rough and really nasty and stuff. And I ran away again.’
Jarrett was found by police, and again he saw Denise West. ‘I went right off. I was screaming and kicking the windows. Again, they took me back …
‘I ran away. I just kept running away. And that was it. Nothing had been done about any of it.’
Jarrett was profoundly affected by the abuse. He felt unsafe all the time, except when police officers were around. He began using alcohol and drugs to still his fears.
‘I became addicted to heroin. I was 11 years old and I was shooting up heroin … and I started Rohypnol and other tablets.’ He quickly got into trouble with the law.
Jarrett received no education after his sexual abuse – he spent much of his childhood in juvenile detention. When he came of age he was jailed with adults, and has been in prison for all but a few months of the last 17 years.
In his early 20s he told his mother about the abuse. ‘My mum didn’t really know what happened to me, so when I did tell my mum she ended up killing herself. I didn’t tell nobody after that.’
He’s had no counselling for his psychological problems, but plans to seek help now he’s spoken with the Royal Commission. ‘I thought, “I’m not going to stay quiet no more. I’m going to speak out”.’
Jarrett believes children need an opportunity to report to independent advocates when they’re in trouble, away from the youth workers and officers who supervise their lives. Above all, their complaints need to be acted upon, not ignored.
He is still angry at how much DOCS knew about his abuse, and how little was done. ‘Nothing was done. Nothing … I didn’t receive no counselling, I didn’t receive nothing. Nothing at all. Nobody took responsibility for anything. I was only a young kid.’