‘Dad wasn’t around much when I was young. I would only see him on weekends … Sometimes I blame Dad for the abuse. I wouldn’t have been looking for a father figure and been vulnerable when Barry came along, if Dad had played a meaningful role in my life.’
Barry Wakefield was a coach at Jesse’s Police Boys Club in regional New South Wales in the mid-1990s. One afternoon after a game, one of his teammates asked Jesse if he wanted to go and stay at Barry’s house for the night. When it came time for bed, it was decided that Jesse would share Barry’s double bed, and his friend, Craig, would sleep on the floor beside them.
‘At one stage during the night, I woke up. I was lying on my side. Barry was snuggled up behind me. I felt one of his hands rubbing my dick. His hand was outside of my shorts … While Barry was doing this, he didn’t say anything to me. I just lay there wishing something would happen so I could get away from [him].’
When Craig woke up, ‘Barry stopped rubbing me. Craig asked me if I wanted to swap spots with him. I told him that I did … and I spent the rest of the night on the floor’.
Nothing was said the next day, and Barry dropped Jesse home. ‘I knew what Barry did to me was wrong, but I didn’t tell Mum because I thought I’d get in trouble.’
Barry would often play ‘little games’ with Jesse. ‘He would walk past me while I was fully clothed and grab me on the dick … There were times when he’d make me do it to him. There were other times when I’d just be wearing boxers, and he would do it then.’
Barry encouraged Jesse to keep going to his house by grooming him. ‘He would give me cigarettes, chocolates, alcohol and marijuana … I’d never smoked pot before I met Barry. He gave me my first bong … Sometimes Barry would also give me sleeping tablets. There were a few occasions where I would wake up in Barry’s bed.’
Jesse recalled Barry mowing the lawn for his mother, and taking him fishing. ‘I thought he was a good bloke.’ He told the Commissioner, ‘I didn’t like the sexual things Barry did to me, but it was nice to have an older guy who showed some interest in me … I was looking for a father figure, because my dad had never really been there for me’.
In the late 1990s, when Jesse was 14, he was asked to give evidence in court, when another boy accused Barry of sexually abusing him. ‘I gave false evidence, claiming that I had never been abused by Barry. I lied because I didn’t want my mum to know what happened to me. I didn’t want her to live with that knowledge.’ Despite Jesse’s denial, the other boy’s evidence was enough to convict Barry, and he received a short jail sentence.
Jesse had never told anyone about the abuse and he ‘didn’t want to talk about [it] for the first time in front of all those people in court. I feel guilty about the false testimony I gave. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it’.
In the early 2010s Jesse decided to report the abuse to the police, in the hope that ‘it might change something’. He last heard from the police about 12 months ago, when they asked him if he still wanted to proceed.
‘Why wouldn’t I want to go through with this? The reason I started this in the first place was I lied when I was a kid and I shouldn’t have lied. I can sort of … handle … what happened to me … but the fact that I lied in court and that, and said nothing did happen … How many other kids have been affected by me saying that?’
Jesse told the Commissioner, ‘I have been smoking pot since it was first given to me by Barry … I have tried to stop … I don’t want to smoke it. I want to get a decent job, but I just can’t overcome my addiction. I always go back to it’.
When he wasn’t smoking pot, Jesse used alcohol as a replacement. ‘I would come home every afternoon and drink anywhere between three to nine longneck beers. I went to a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and thought to myself, “That’s not me” … I don’t drink so much anymore, but whenever I try to get off the weed, I tend to drink more.’
Jesse has always found it hard to get close to people, and when he was younger, the abuse affected his enjoyment of sex. ‘It didn’t feel good having someone else in my genital area.’ He has recently been diagnosed with depression, and is now taking medication for it.
‘I often look at where I am today and wonder what life would be like now, had it not been for the pot, and if that stuff had never happened to me. If I hadn’t’ve had to keep that part of my life a secret for so long … Every day is a struggle. Even with medication, I still feel like I need other things, like alcohol or pot, to get by.’
One of Jesse’s main reasons for coming to the Royal Commission was ‘so that I [can] tell my kids … I might not have done it when I was a kid, but I managed to be able to do it now. But I want them to know that they can actually come to me … and say if something happens like this. I don’t want them to feel like how I felt, that’s for sure’.