Jarryd was first sexually abused in the late 1970s, when he was waiting to go to confession at a Catholic church in Sydney and needed the toilet. Although at seven years old he was able to go to the toilet on his own, a dark-eyed and quietly-spoken young priest offered to take him ‘just in case’. He was hugged and fondled while at the urinal.
Other times this priest took him to a bathroom in an underground section of the church, which usually had to be unlocked. An older priest, who wore glasses and was in his 40s or 50s, sometimes waited there and further sexually abused him.
Jarryd is not sure whether the abuse happened every Sunday ‘but I know there was at least three, four times that I can really, clearly remember with the … younger priest in his black clothing. The older guy I remember at least two, three times that he saw me and wanted me to come with him’. He ‘clearly’ remembers this older priest, and bleeding after one session in a cubicle.
‘I remember being taken down through the crypt [by the older priest]. I used to call it catacombs for whatever reason. I remember what I saw, I remember the area … I can even describe the smell but I don’t necessarily remember what happened. I felt like I blacked out, then all of a sudden I woke up and, you know, I was being escorted out, just that memory.’
Jarryd has had ‘recurring dreams’ about the abuse ‘for years and years’. The last time this abuse happened his father came into the toilet – he thinks the younger priest left the door open – and saw what happened. He has snippets of recollection about this incident, including that his older brother chased one of the priests outside the church building. He was never taken to that particular Catholic church again.
Around this time Jarryd also became the subject of violent familial sexual abuse – by a male family member. This abuse led to physical trauma and significant social and relationship problems.
Jarryd began self-harming at eight years old, and continued doing so until early high school. He was 13 when his father discovering this behaviour and threw him out of home. ‘I was out of my house at a fairly young age. My father lost control of whatever the situation was and he just wanted me to leave … I never understood why.’ He lived with a friend’s family, then became homeless in his mid-teens.
Since being cut off from his family Jarryd has struggled from drug addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and has attempted suicide ’quite a few times’.
Until the abuse, he believes he was a ‘popular kid’, loved by his family. But then everything turned around ‘360 degrees’ and he was regarded as ‘broken’ and ‘a liability’ and ‘like someone that didn’t exist’. The self-harming made him feel normal somehow. He was rarely at school, but nobody seemed to question this.
A former partner was always ‘curious’ as to why he would overreact to certain situations. He once returned to the church where the abuse occurred for a baptism and recalls being ‘angry’. His ex-wife knew only that he was ‘abused as a kid and that’s why I acted a bit weird. She knew I had a pretty strong hatred against religion for quite a long time’.
He felt it would be ‘a waste of time’ in the 1980s to tell the police about the abuse which came to him in ‘flashbacks and memories of the cell and the toilets’.
Years and years of counselling, Jarryd believes, has been both helpful and harmful. ‘It’s made me very self-analytical and the constant counselling and the constant appointments and the constant, sort of, talking about how I felt and why I felt it and why I’m reacting to this and that and the other thing and over and over and over again. It drives you nuts.’
Jarryd is seeking compensation so he has money to resume counselling. ‘You only get access to 10 sessions a year when you are poor.’ His young child is one of the main reasons he ‘hasn’t ended it’. ‘I’m sure there’s more to life than being a victim’ or ‘a statistic’.
The abuse, he says, has made him cynical but he’s ‘impressed that there are so many people’ who are now working to prevent this abuse happening to other kids.
Jarryd doubts the Catholic Church – even if it did compensate him – can change his life. ‘I’ve just had to live with this.’