From a young age, Jeffrey often ran away from home and skipped school so he could be with his friends. ‘I just wanted to be a part of my friends and stuff like that and used to take off and [I was] always running away with people and doing silly things.’
He was made a ward of the New South Wales state in the early 1990s as a 10-year-old, and through his childhood and teenage years moved between foster care placements, juvenile remand centres, and brief stays with his mother.
By the time he turned 11, he had been picked up by police several times for stealing and break and enter offences. He was eventually sentenced to a remand centre and arrived as one of its youngest inmates.
One day Jeffrey was in a recreation room with some older boys when they blocked the exits, and one of them anally raped him. The boy threatened him with serious harm if he told anyone and for days afterward laughed when their paths crossed.
‘He used to joke about it with other boys and that used to eat me up inside. I knew it wasn’t right and if I told someone I’d probably get in trouble. I didn’t know how to approach the situation, and then it got the better of me.’
After about a week Jeffrey reported the rape to a staff member, who laughed. ‘I said, “This isn’t a joke”, and I broke into tears.’
Jeffrey told the Commissioner he was taken to hospital and sent back to a different unit in the centre, before being moved to another institution altogether. The boy who’d assaulted him was charged, but Jeffrey wasn’t sure of the outcome of court proceedings because he wasn’t involved after making his initial statement. It was his mother who’d pursued the matter with NSW Police and juvenile justice staff.
At 15, Jeffrey was in another juvenile justice facility that was state government-funded but run by a non-government organisation. An older and bigger boy there sexually abused him and another resident over three months, until he went to a worker he respected and disclosed what was happening. The worker reported the abuse and charges by police resulted in the abuser’s conviction.
Jeffrey said the impacts of the sexual abuse remained with him. He often felt ashamed, embarrassed and anxious. Compounding these feelings was the memory of confronting his father who’d abused him as a toddler. Within weeks of the confrontation, his father took his own life.
Triggers often came without warning. ‘Crowds of people, older men, a whole range of places. Sometimes it’d just pop up and I’d start to get really clammy and anxious, my heart’d start racing. Even just going out in public sometimes you know, walking down the street. I’d see a group of people and get all anxious and start having a panic attack. Trust issues. I’ve always felt very insecure, like different, I just didn’t feel right sometimes.’
Although he’d had counselling at various stages of life, only in the last five years had he started to open up about the abuse. ‘I tried to block it and I’d talk about other things in the counselling sessions.’
Meeting a therapist from a specialist men’s sexual assault service had made a difference. ‘Some days it was like a relief when I walked out of there, but then other days it brought it back and it’d just play on my mind.’
Jeffrey described other impacts including his use of drugs and alcohol, and continuing contact with the justice system. He’d had numerous incarcerations for criminal offences and breaches of parole, and was in jail at the time of speaking with the Royal Commission.
‘My biggest problem I guess was from being in care and stuff like that from a young age, I sort of rebelled against authorities and being told you’ve got to come in on this day, this time or you’re going to breached and we’ll send you back to jail, that didn’t bother me. I was used to that sort of thing.
‘It’s the same now like with parole and stuff. That’s why I stuffed up my parole this time was because I don’t like being told I guess that you’ve got to be there at this time. And I go, “Well I rock up there when I please”. I know that’s not a good way to think but that’s I guess me being structured for so many years, all I’ve wanted is to be cut free of that and to have my life, not have to explain on the phone to someone … and get approval like I’m a kid still.
‘I can’t get out of that cycle. That’s why this time I’ve told my solicitor, I said, “I just want a straight sentence”. I said, “I don’t want parole”. I’ll probably serve my full time and get out free just so I’ve got that time out of the way and I know I’ve got nothing hanging over my head.’