Joel’s parents had a lot of problems, and the family moved around a lot. When he was in his early teens he fought with his dad about smoking cigarettes. He left home to live with friends for a while, coming to the attention of child protection authorities.
At 14 Joel was placed in a regional Victorian residential care facility, which was run by the government. Not long after he arrived one of the carers, Matt, started sexually abusing him. Matt ‘came across as friendly ... in his own way, affectionate. But I didn’t find it affectionate’.
The abuse began with Matt fondling Joel, and giving Joel money for sexual favours, before progressing to anal penetration. This abuse continued for around three months, until Joel was sent home.
When Joel left the centre Matt drove him to his parents’ house. Before Joel got out of the car, Matt said that now he knew where they lived ‘he could come back there anytime’ should Joel ever disclose the abuse. For the remainder of his teenage years Joel was withdrawn and socially isolated, having few friends and little self-confidence.
Joel was later charged and convicted of multiple sexual offences against a child, and is currently serving a custodial sentence. Although due for release soon, he is hesitant about leaving prison as he considers himself institutionalised.
While incarcerated, Joel has been doing a lot of educational courses, to help him prepare for a ‘crime-free life’ back in the community. He has also engaged with some counselling and sex offenders rehabilitation programs.
Joel suggested there needed to be better counselling options for people with sexual feelings towards children before they have acted on them, without the fear that they will be in trouble with the law.
‘My thing has always been to try and get to people who know that they have a problem, but have not committed an offence. To be able to speak to somebody where they’re not going to come to jail, because current law [in Queensland] says that if you’re thinking about doing something, even though you’ve never committed an offence, you’re a risk so you come to jail ... And that sucks.’