‘I was in on a protection order and I was supposed to be being protected. And it was actually … the opposite … until you get into your later years you just don’t realise how serious what they done to you was.’
Jason was placed into a Victorian state-run boys’ home in 1975 when he was 11 years old. Soon after he was adopted out to live with a single man.
‘I woke up one day on the couch and he was playing with my penis … I tried to escape but the door was deadlocked. There was no way to get out. I had to jump through a window and I actually hurt myself pretty bad.’
Jason ran away from the man and then from a second foster carer. The welfare authorities placed him in a different home, one for juvenile offenders and uncontrollable boys.
‘That was actually quite violent. If a fight broke out between a couple of kids … the wardens would come in with their batons and start [beating] on everybody.
‘I was still quite young … I remember hearing kids scream, curdling screams, from other kids because back then [older] kids would come in there ... and you’d hear some … actually raping other boys.’
Jason believes that the wardens knew about these events and did nothing to stop them.
When he was 13 or 14 years old he was moved to a Salvation Army-run boys’ home in Melbourne. He found this home even more terrifying.
‘I used to cop … solitary confinement. But I would never get just one day or something like that, they’d put me in there for three … we used to call it ‘72’. And if you kicked on a door or screamed or whatever you’d just get left in there for longer … You couldn’t see … you didn’t know if it was day or night. They … called it “the slot”.’
The culture of the centre was again, extremely violent and it was in the slot that Jason was regularly sexually abused by one of the Salvation Army workers.
‘I actually attacked one of the officers when he opened the door because I’d got so frustrated. I didn’t know how long I’d been in there. My eyes had trouble adjusting. He’d come in and out through the day or night … if you heard the door close you knew that you were in big trouble … it was going to be violence or sexual abuse.
‘Because you were getting no education your mind had nowhere to go except thinking about what you were going to do after you got out of the slot. And you’d get out of the slot more angry then when you went in. And then they’d throw you back in there again.’
The major who oversaw the home would come around every week to ask the boys about their treatment. Jason always spoke up about his beatings and his sexual abuse.
‘No matter what you said to him, he’d just say, “They’re just doing their job, they’re just doing their job”. And you’d try and beg … He wasn’t a bad person but I’d go to him with these complaints and I’d get called a liar.
‘The problem was that after you spoke to the major it would become more unconfidential because it would get … back to the guard … that there’d been complaints made and then you’d cop it. Like “You little shit, you know, you ever say something about this again, you’re going to get it ten times worse”. You were sort of stuck.’
Jason even ran away and reported his abuse to police.
‘And I just got called a liar again … In the end you give up. When you just keep [being] called a liar by the police, by the bloke … running the place … he just brushed it off, “I’ll have a word about that”, and that’s all he’d say. Not, “That’s disgusting”.
‘My whole young life, I was taught to have to lie to survive … You just had to live each day.’
He had no one to talk about his abuse within the home at all.
‘The amount of sexual abuse of young boys that he done was incredible … We never talked about any [of it] … everybody knew what was going on but we just never spoke about it.
‘You’d hear new, younger blokes coming in, you’d hear yelling from down the corridor and you knew what was going on but there wasn’t a thing you could do about it.’
Jason’s lack of education meant that he had very little opportunity when he left the home.
‘I ended up in jail a few times and they had schools in there and every time I went in … that’s all I wanted to do was go to school. I ended up learning mathematics, I ended up learning how to write neatly and how to address people properly.’
He found work as a mechanic and excelled because he ‘was a natural born tinkerer’. He had children when he was quite young but has had multiple relationships.
‘I could never bond properly … I just couldn’t seem to let myself trust anyone.’
The sexual abuse has had long term physical and mental impacts on Jason’s life.
‘I still suffer bleeding, even to this day, I suffer bleeding from my back passage … I used illicit drugs along the way [but] because alcohol is legal I ended up turning to alcohol … I’ve done damage to my liver … I had to stop drinking or I was just going to kill myself.’
Jason spent many years avoiding talking about his abuse.
‘It’s been so many ups and downs and I’ve gone into states of depression. I saw a psychiatrist for years to try and get that all out of my system. I could never actually tell him everything that was bothering me.’
It is only a year ago that Jason finally confided in his counsellor about the extent of his abuse. Jason is able to trust this counsellor because the counsellor had a challenging young life too.
‘Once you’ve been to the police and you’ve been to leaders of supposed care places, and you’ve made your complaint and you’ve just been called a liar all your life and then you finally get someone who understands where you’re coming from and understands that these things do really happen, that’s the only time it’s worth talking to someone about it.
‘When you’re young, you can rebound pretty quick but as you get older the hurt comes back and the pain comes back. Sometimes I think about it and sometimes I don’t. I try not to, but sometimes it’s impossible not to … There’ll never be an actual real closure because you can’t ever – I’m going to have to go to my grave with all this stuff.
‘It’s hard for me to even hold back tears right now to be honest and I’m just really doing this [in the] hope that this doesn’t have to happen to more children.’