Jayden and his brother Tom were placed in an Anglican orphanage in Victoria in the late 1960s when Jayden was 18 months old. Conditions there were grim. Some sort of ‘electrical device’ was used to try and cure children of wetting the bed. It was used on Jayden until he was nine. He’d sleep on the floor to avoid getting electric shocks but the staff eventually restrained him with leather shackles.
Kids had to do chores in the home. Some of the horrible tasks, like peeling hundreds of potatoes, were handed out as punishment and children’s hands were cut to shreds. If kids didn’t finish their chores or their homework in time, they got belted.
Jayden was sexually abused by a staff worker, Richard Peele. Peele would take advantage of the bed restraints and touch and masturbate Jayden as he lay there.
There was an isolation room in the home where children were kept if they were naughty. Under the guise of punishment, Peele took Jayden up there, locked the door behind them and forced Jayden to have oral sex.
Peele told him, ‘If you tell anyone, I’ll start doin’ this to your brother and they won’t believe him either’.
Jayden wept as his statement was read out by the Commissioner.
‘He put something in my bottom, perhaps his finger. I’m unsure what. My eyes were closed, I felt helpless, scared and confused. He made me think I had to do it to keep my … brother safe. This happened for years from the age of seven till 11 approximately. Weekly or fortnightly.’
Then one day, Peele disappeared. Jayden doesn’t know where he went.
He and his brother were released back to their alcoholic father when Jayden was in his early teens. For the next five years it was his stepmother who abused him. Then Jayden got his driving licence ‘and got out of there’.
Jayden kept his memories of the abuse close to his chest. But several years ago Tom told Jayden that he’d registered with the Commission. They started to talk. They discovered that they’d both been sexually abused by Richard Peele.
Jayden was deeply upset. He’d always thought he was protecting Tom by allowing Peele to abuse him. Now he felt like he’d failed in his duty to his brother.
Jayden got hold of his human services file very recently. He’s only had a quick look, but has already discovered that Richard Peele wrote a lot of the file notes. ‘He’s such a good little boy’, one note says. Another says, ironically enough, that Jayden was getting very attached to Peele. Something he does not remember at all. There are also mentions of hospital visits for injuries. Jayden has no recollections of those either.
The sexual abuse he suffered in the 1970s has had a huge impact on Jayden. He is distrustful, reserved and his intimate relationships only last for a year or two. It’s also affected his ability to connect with his children.
His low self-confidence, he told the Commissioner, has led to some poor life choices.
Jayden reported the abuse to police three or four years ago after his ex-wife urged him to. The young constable looked at him from behind the desk. ‘“This happened 35 years ago. Why are you telling us now? I’ll get someone to contact you.” Several months went by. Nothing.’
So Jayden left it at that. ‘I’m not one to create waves.’
He’s still interested in reporting to the police but isn’t so sure about applying for financial compensation.
‘It’s not what I’m about. I really want to get my story out and, you know, one person leads to another, the next thing, the community knows. And that, to me, is better than money.’
What he’d really like is to see the head of the home be held accountable and punished. ‘All the staff would punish the kids for silly stuff. They’d beat them, they’d starve them, they’d do whatever they want with them. Management knew about it. The head nun knew all about it.’
If a caregiver visited the home and Jayden was bruised or marked, the staff would say he was sick and couldn’t go out. ‘They’d just push it to the side. They knew what was goin’ on.’
Jayden has recently started seeing a good psychologist. He’s getting great support from Open Place as well.
‘I’m a battler’, he told the Commissioner, ‘don’t you worry.’