Jay was six when he and his siblings migrated from Central America in the 1990s. They came to Australia with their stepfather, who had gained their custody by falsely claiming their mother had been violent towards him.
Once they reached the country, Jay was subjected to physical abuse by his stepfather (who at this stage he believed was his biological father). ‘He used to beat on me every day after work.’
When Jay was 14 ‘I ended up just jumping the fence and running one day after he was beating me’. He reached out to a person in his community called Benicio, who in turn contacted the Victorian Human Services Department and told them about the abuse.
A formal care arrangement was put in place, by which Benicio became Jay’s foster father. ‘Not long after I went into his care, he one day went and just put a pornographic film on, and come and sat next to me, and that’s when he started touching me, and doing sexual things.’
The abuse continued for around six months. ‘I was 14, so I didn’t know how to take that, you know. It sort of just played out, I don’t know … You can’t really stop it, you don’t know how to react – you’re only a kid … You don’t know what to do. You just sort of sit there, really.’
He found out that Benicio had also sexually abused other children, and decided to leave. Perhaps thinking that Jay would report him to police, Benicio ‘walked into his room and grabbed a machete, and he went to turn on me. So I got up out of the chair and ran towards the backyard’.
Jay escaped to a neighbour’s house, and Benicio followed. Finally, the neighbour confronted Benicio, and ‘he denied everything of course’.
By the next morning, Benicio had packed up his belongings and left. Jay didn’t report the abuse by Benicio at this time, but rather ran away himself and lived on the streets.
He was picked up by police and placed with a different foster family. When he turned 18, the Department arranged for him to go back to his birth country to see his mother. Meeting up with her ‘was one of the best feelings in the world. I cried like you wouldn’t believe’. He did not tell his mum about the sexual abuse.
Jay came back to Australia, and a few years later told a family friend about what Benicio had done to him. This person had some friends in the police force, and Jay made a statement to police about the abuse.
Although he was supposed to return to take part in a pretext call or meeting with Benicio, ‘I did have a bit of a drug history back then’ and he didn’t go through with this. He does not think Benicio was ever charged for any of his offending against kids, and intends to speak with police again.
‘I do want to stop this. I want him to stop. Because who knows how many more people. Just off the top of my mind there’s about eight people that I know … And it could be happening to who knows how many more.’
Jay began a relationship and had children, but lost touch with his kids after breaking up with his partner. He spoke to the Commissioner from prison, and has also been incarcerated previously.
Despite receiving some counselling for his drug use he has never disclosed the sexual abuse during these sessions. ‘It’s been a pretty private, secret thing that I’ve had. It’s just been hidden away … How do you bring something like that up? And how do you get a child to say it?’