Jeremy John's story

Born in the late 1950s, Jeremy enjoyed a ‘pretty normal upbringing’ in coastal New South Wales. Looking back he’s not sure why, in his early teens, he started truanting and breaking into houses.

‘It’s hard to say. Probably lack of friends, you know what I mean? I started hanging around with people who were a bit older, and yeah, I thought they were friends. I think as it turned out I was probably just being used.’

Jeremy was eventually arrested and sent to a boys’ home run by the Salvation Army. The place seemed alright at first. ‘There were a lot of nice kids and that there. I knew one person, he was from the same area. He’s deceased now, poor bugger. And yeah, we went to school. It was okay.’

Things changed when the staff started letting people from the community take boys out with them for day trips and weekends. Jeremy was taken on a camping trip one time, and woke in the middle of the night to find a man sexually abusing him.

‘I froze, just out of fear. And yeah, I just sort of pushed him off and crawled over in the corner and just out of fear I just stayed there.’

The man told Jeremy not to say anything. Jeremy ignored the warning and disclosed the abuse to the manager of the home as soon as he got back. The manager, Captain Hughes, told Jeremy that he would look into it. Later, when he got back to Jeremy ‘he just said “Oh well, the person denies it, and I believe him”. Yeah. And that was that … I got the cane for lying’.

Jeremy escaped from the home and told the police about the abuse. They ignored him and sent him back to Captain Hughes who made it his practice, from that moment on, to single Jeremy out for brutal punishments.

When Jeremy escaped a second time he was sent to another boys’ home, which was ‘alright’, and then home to his mother. At 16 Jeremy got his first job – and was sexually abused by his boss. Around this time he started drinking, taking drugs and committing break and enters again. He was arrested and sent to a juvenile detention centre.

The centre ‘wasn’t a very nice place’. There was a lot of ‘humiliation and bashings’, and some of the older boys sexually abused the younger ones. Jeremy was abused by three different boys. Often, he said, this abuse was meted out ‘at the behest of the officers’.

At 20, Jeremy wound up in his first adult jail. He’s been in and out of prison ever since. ‘It’s been about 12 months, two years, then back in.’

At the time of his session with the Commissioner he was in jail for property offences. Now aged in his 50s, Jeremy is tired of living life on the inside. ‘I can’t do this no more,’ he said. ‘It’s not the place to be.’ He’s been thinking a lot about why his life turned out the way it did.

‘One of the ladies I was doing a course with before I was arrested, I bumped into her in jail and she seemed to think that we sort of do it deliberate, not knowing it, but self-sabotage or something if things are going good. I’m not sure. It’s something I have to find out.’

Jeremy has had a few sessions with psychologists but finds it difficult to access their services regularly. The last time he was on the outside he spoke to a psychologist at the methadone clinic and that was helpful. He wanted to set up another meeting for the following week, but the psychologist booked him in for three months down the track. By then, Jeremy was back in jail.

Recently he contacted the Salvation Army. Two representatives came to visit him in jail and subsequently he received an apology and a redress payment of $40,000. Jeremy is still unsure whether the process was worthwhile.

‘There are times I wish I hadn’t of done it. It just dredges up a lot of stuff that you’ve had buried for a long time. And when you don’t know how to deal with stuff, it’s pretty hard.’

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