Jasper emigrated from the UK with his parents as a teenager in the mid-1960s. He had previously been in and out of children’s homes in England. ‘I reckon it was horrific, I never had anybody’s support at all’, Jasper told the Commissioner. ‘When I came to Australia my reading age was below par, I had a speech problem … I was damaged.’
A prickly relationship with his parents continued in their new home in Sydney. Jasper ran away from home many times and began to fall out with the police. He spent a year in a juvenile justice centre, and then found himself in a boys’ home run by the Anglican Church in Sydney’s inner west.
There Jasper was sexually abused by the home’s superintendent, Lionel Torrens. ‘I was 16 years and nine months old. While I was in the kitchen by myself alone doing some washing up of dishes Mr Torrens came up behind me and grabbed me and made movements as though Mr Torrens was sodomising me, rubbing his erect penis against me, with him still having his clothes on.
‘There was nobody around to witness that event.’
Jasper responded to the assault by doing what he knew best – he ran away from the boys’ home. ‘I lived in an old broken car and in a tunnel near Hyde Park.’ Jasper lived on the streets for nearly a fortnight before the police located him.
‘The police found me and took me back to the station … I reported what had happened to me and nothing was done about it. When I was back I felt very unsafe and fearful in Mr Torrens’ presence.’
Jasper had been allowed to hold down some part-time work while he was at the children’s home, but he lost his jobs after the abuse. ‘I was restless and depressed after the Mr Torrens incident and could not concentrate properly on my work.’ Jasper endured a couple more months at the home, nervously avoiding the superintendent.
He returned to live with his parents but clashed with them and eventually Jasper threatened to kill his father. He was hospitalised and told he had a mental illness. ‘This is the aftermath of the incident with Mr Torrens.'
‘I had an attachment disorder and that affects how you relate to people when you grow up. That’s where the damaged part is.'
‘I didn’t feel I belonged. I always tensed up.’
Later in life Jasper joined a gym and has worked out regularly for 20 years. The exercise helps with his tension and stress. ‘But it doesn’t do anything for my self-esteem.’ Nevertheless Jasper is a survivor - ‘I put it down to my creative bent’ - and is sure that telling his story will help him move forward.
A few years ago Jasper approached the Anglican Church and disclosed the abuse he had suffered under Superintendent Torrens. Anglicare was quick to respond. Jasper liked the case manager they appointed for him and benefitted from the six weeks he had with a psychologist, relating his story. ‘They accepted responsibility for what happened to me.’ Jasper received an apology from the head of Anglicare and a cash payout as compensation. He was happy with the redress process.
Anglicare encouraged Jasper to report the abuse to the police. He learned that Lionel Torrens was dead, so no legal action could be taken.
In the future Jasper would like to see more care taken in the selection of adults who work with children. ‘I think you’ve got to get the right people to do the right job. People who do the right job … it’s got to be people who care, sensitive in temperament - the creative people, ‘cause they care.’