Jeremy James's story

In the late 1970s Father Hubert would come to the Melbourne Catholic school Jeremy attended, call him out of class, and take him on drives in his car. Jeremy was in Grade 2 at the time and the nun who taught him would let him go without comment.

Now, Jeremy realises Hubert sexually abused him during these trips. When he was in his 20s, his mother learned that Father Hubert was a paedophile and asked him if he’d ever been sexually abused.

‘I sort of laughed it off at the time, that he would have done anything to me. He was always nice to me’, Jeremy said. ‘I could have gone my whole life I think without thinking he’d ever done anything to me … My memory of him was that really I did love him so much.’

It was only in recent years, as Jeremy’s life spiralled out of control, that he really stopped to think about it. When he did, he realised ‘there was probably a lot more to it ... I started reflecting on all the things I did at school after that year’.

This included ‘doing things’ to some of the girls, and breaking into houses in his street. ‘I was going into the houses, sometimes I was just watching TV, sometimes I was – I urinated in vegetable oil in two of the households, like, I don’t know why I did that.’ Later, he got hold of the keys to the church collection box and stole the money inside. Although his behaviour deteriorated, ‘I think as a student, work-wise, I think I was pretty good’.

Re-examining what had happened with Father Hubert led Jeremy to seek out his medical records. He found that in Grade 2 he’d been taken to hospital requiring stitches to his anus. According to the records this was the result of a fall, which he is certain didn’t happen. At the same time, he doesn’t recall being penetrated by Father Hubert.

‘I don’t remember him doing anything of that sort to me.’

As an adult Jeremy has had stable employment, with a job in the same workplace for many years. He’s had ‘quite a few girlfriends’ and now has young children with his present partner, Frances, who he’s been with for over a decade. He’s also had a complicated secret life, in which he has tried to manage a gambling addiction and frequent visits to sex workers, beginning with visits to licensed brothels in his late teens.

‘That escalated to illegal brothels, going down to St Kilda and picking up women from the street – I did that on a number of occasions.’ He also began exploring sexual experiences with men.

‘I’ve always been 100 per cent into women and it’s hard for me to explain why I did those other things’, he told the Commissioner. ‘I’d walk out disgusted with myself … I didn’t understand why I was doing it – I had no real concept of – at the time, because I’d never even stopped to consider why I’d done things in my life.’

A few years ago a sexual encounter with a man put Jeremy in danger, and led him to seek support from Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA). He now has regular visits with a counsellor, who he describes as ‘the best’.

‘Being able to go there every couple of weeks, just to talk about my week, talk about my memories that came up … Just ways to cope and coping mechanisms … I think it’s the only thing that’s saved my life.’

He never revealed to his mother that he was abused by Father Hubert. After he accessed his medical records, he did tell his father. ‘He was very dismissive. His automatic reaction was just forget about it, you should have seen what happened to me when I was a kid.’

Jeremey’s partner now knows about the abuse, and also knows about most, but not all, of his other secrets. Disclosing to her has been good for their relationship. ‘Occasionally she’ll say, “Can you talk to CASA about that?” … She was okay, though. Like she’s very supportive, very good to me’, he said.

‘I never thought I was going to come out of where I was – that’s mainly CASA and [Frances], they’ve just constantly stood by me and constantly given me help ... I feel like I can function reasonably well now.’

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