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Jeff Harry's story

Jeff was born into an ‘average sort of family’ which immigrated to Australia in the late 1960s, when Jeff was about four years old. They lived in a migration centre in New South Wales and during this time Jeff suffered a head injury that caused brain damage.

After that, Jeff said, ‘I couldn’t understand a lot and I couldn’t concentrate a lot in school’. It was a tough time for Jeff’s family. His mother suffered a ‘nervous breakdown’ and his father was busy with work so when Jeff was about 11 he was sent to a Catholic-run boarding school for disabled boys.

Soon after Jeff arrived at the school the janitor, Michael Geary, started sexually abusing him. The abuse continued for the whole of Jeff’s four-year stay at the home and involved fondling and oral sex. ‘He coerced me into giving head and things like that’, Jeff said.

‘Everyone knew’ about the abuse and Jeff wasn’t the only victim. One severely disabled boy was also attacked by Geary many times. Other boys were molested by a teacher named Brother Nicholas. There was physical abuse too. One time Jeff was bashed so viciously by one of the Brothers he ended up in hospital for three days.

When Jeff left the school he ‘couldn’t do much more than sign me name’ and had to teach himself how to read and write. He had trouble holding down jobs and has ‘never been able to have a relationship. I’ve tried a few times but no’.

Memories of the abuse often play on his mind. He once tried to take his own life. ‘They found me covered in blood on the bathroom floor because I’d tried to slash me wrists.’ He often feels ‘kind of empty’.

In the 1990s Jeff was charged with sexual assault of a minor. He pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. When interviewed by the police he tried to tell them about the abuse he’d suffered at the boarding school but they didn’t want to listen. Their attitude was: ‘It’s just one paedophile blaming it on another paedophile’.

Jeff hasn’t been in any trouble with the law since then. He now devotes his time to a local community group and his church. He receives ongoing support from the Disability Advocacy Service.

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