Jarvis's story

‘It affected my life tremendously because I’d never been in trouble with the police until after this happened, and then it was only shortly after this happened that I was in trouble with the police and receiving an 18-month bond for just being silly. And, you know, then it was just a downhill spiral from there. I started drinking a helluva lot more alcohol, started drink driving and whatnot, so ended up in jail. And then it was hard to get back. You become either very destructive or, you know – whether you’re destroying your own life or someone else’s.’

In the mid 1980s when he was 10, Jarvis was enrolled in a mentoring program run by the Wesley Mission in Sydney. His mentor, Nigel Swansea, volunteered time away from his regular job in the navy, and in the beginning was friendly and good company. He took Jarvis and his mother to dinner, and escorted Jarvis onto naval ships and submarines in Sydney Harbour. Swansea also had a farm where he’d invite Jarvis for sleepovers.

On the occasions that Jarvis went to the farm he’d also be sexually abused.

‘I didn’t realise it was sexual abuse at first 'cause he just used to push himself into my back, you know’, Jarvis said. ‘From day one that I went there, I was sleeping in his bed and I didn’t know any different.

'So I was sleeping in his bed from day one and yeah, I just know that later on in life, when you know what an erection’s like, and someone would be pushing it in your back, then that’s when it twigged to me about that. That had gone on for pretty much the whole time.’

A couple of years later, Swansea took Jarvis on a camping trip. They went via a hotel where they both had beers and cigarettes. During the night Swansea reached over and began masturbating Jarvis, who rolled over and pretended to be asleep. ‘I remember telling myself in my head, “This is really wrong”,' Jarvis said. When Swansea didn’t stop, Jarvis got up and left the tent, staying awake by the campfire for the rest of the night.

At about this time, Jarvis’s mother entered a new relationship and Swansea worked to turn Jarvis against Paul, his mother’s new partner. ‘I absolutely treated him like scum because I didn’t want any other males getting near me’, Jarvis said. ‘And Paul’s never come near me at all, but I used to be the most angry kid towards him, because Nigel said, “If Paul gets too close to your mum, something’s going to happen”.

'So therefore I blamed Paul, thinking, "If you weren’t there, it never would have happened". Which is just ridiculous. It put a lot of strain on Mum’s relationship and on the household in general.’

When he returned from the camping trip, Jarvis told his mother that he didn’t want to see Nigel again. When she asked why, he replied that he didn’t like him. Thereafter, Swansea wrote letters imploring Jarvis to telephone, write or visit him. In the meantime, Jarvis started smoking marijuana and regularly drinking alcohol, but he didn’t disclose the abuse.

‘I didn’t want to tell anyone 'cause I felt like they were going to shunt me as being weak or homosexual or anything like that. So you know, it just made me stronger and I got in a lot more fights – and fights and fights and fights.

'I wouldn’t sit next to people on the train … 'If there was no seats next to a lady, I would stand up. I would not sit down. Would not go near any adult.’

Jarvis tried to put the abuse out of his head, but in 2007 after he ‘started seeing all the cases of priests and whatnot’ being charged with child sex offences, he thought ‘it has to be done’.

He rang his local police station but was told that he’d need to report to the station that covered the geographic area in which the abuse took place. When Jarvis did this, he was ‘sent here and there’ and became discouraged, thinking ‘it’s not even worth doing’. His past history with the force made him hesitant to go into a police station and he was hoping a detective might be able to interview him at home. At the time of speaking with the Royal Commission, he was considering trying once more to make a formal statement.

When Jarvis rang Wesley Mission in the mid-2010s to report the abuse and inquire about Swansea he was told by a staff member they didn’t keep records for more than five years. ‘I let it go after that’, Jarvis said.

He also rang the office of the Royal Australian Navy but was told they couldn’t take any action about his allegation because ‘it didn’t happen on base’. They weren’t able to divulge whether Swansea was still serving with the navy.

Jarvis told the Commissioner that he’d spoken to counsellors about the abuse over the years and found ‘sometimes it’s good to get it off your chest’ but often they weren’t ‘on the same wavelength’.

His wish, he said, was to see Swansea charged and jailed. ‘Ultimately, that would be my main goal. But I suppose, just awareness for other people and you know like, if programs like [Wesley mentoring], if they notice something like a kid’s said he doesn’t want to do it no more, then find out what’s going on you know.

'Actually do some groundwork, that’s pretty simple. It’s what we would just consider normal today and maybe do some better character checks. But having said that, if you’ve got a person that’s in the Royal Australian Navy, you’re going to pretty much think he’s of good character, you know.’

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