John Leigh's story

‘Because it is my word against his basically, that’s what I’m thinking. I’ve never really got anywhere with just my word. I say something and it’s not really something that’s held [outside jail].’

Jon has only recently begun to talk about the sexual abuse he experienced at a community centre in the late 1990s. He was still in primary school and was helping one of the male staff members with some fundraising.

‘We would raise money in the little country towns just outside of [the city] … I’d go out there for most [of] the day and there were occasions where we stayed overnight.’

At the end of one fundraising day they returned very late to the city and Jon had to stay at the man’s house.

‘He pulled up at the bottle shop and got some drinks … He gave me a mattress for [me] to sleep in the lounge … went to try to go to sleep. He was in the lounge watching TV and asked me if I wanted to have a drink with him … he gave me a can … I felt relaxed. I was lying down. He offered if I wanted a massage … and I was saying no because I just wanted to go to sleep.

‘It went from a massage to … he pulled my shorts down.’

The man sexually abused Jon. Jon felt he couldn’t stay in the house. ‘He left the room so I took off.’

Jon made his way to a phone box and called his mum, who told him to call the police. Police came and collected him and wanted to take him to hospital: ‘And it was all too much. I just wanted to go home, go to my room.’

The following day, police wanted to get DNA samples but Jon was overwhelmed and unable to continue with the process. Now, he thinks that if there had been a counsellor sitting with him he may have followed through with police.

‘It was forcing me to do something, pushing me towards it. They could’ve did it a better way. There was nobody but police and doctors and my mum … there was no one I could talk to.’

After the abuse Jon began to get in trouble with police. The family moved interstate in the hope that his behaviour might improve but the trouble continued. He reached Year 10 at school but after finishing did ‘nothing really’. He found short-term labouring jobs and got into drugs: ‘Sniffing petrol … paint. We got into a lot of mischief. Smoking a lot of marijuana … it went from that smoking to pills to smoking ice to shooting up ice, heroin. Morphine.’

By 18 years of age, Jon was in jail. He has spent most of his life since then inside except for two years when he stayed out because he kept ‘myself away from everybody … I didn’t have a drug habit. I separated myself from everybody’.

In jail Jon has recently completed a violent offenders program and found it helpful.

‘That was full on. It was really good. Trying to be mindful of other people and myself … Spoke about a lot of things.’

But because it was a group program, Jon didn’t talk about his sexual abuse. While it gave him the confidence to speak to the Royal Commission, Jon believes that if the program had been a one on one program he would have disclosed his abuse.

‘Listening to them, the way they were talking, got me thinking about this [the sexual abuse] as well. As soon as I got the opportunity to speak about it I did.

‘[The abuse] does make me angry at times. Coming here and talking to you guys about it … is gut wrenching. It’s not something I thought I’d ever do. I thought it … sounded like it was something that I’d be able to help make a change, not just in my life but in other people’s lives.

‘Now that I’ve opened up … it’s something I really want to deal with.’

Jon is pursuing compensation and will think about laying criminal charges once he is released from jail.

He has a job when he is released in a few months as well as a very supportive family. He is keen to build a better life.

‘I do want to have a better future for myself and for my kids. I don’t want to keep going in a circle … Now I’ve got to make some real changes … be mindful of what I’ve done, try to think about the rest of my future, where I want it to go, and deal with everything that I’ve been through. And talk about it instead of acting out about it …’

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