Jon's story

Jon was born in the mid-1960s and grew up in a poor neighbourhood in the city. His dad left when he was four years old, leaving his mum to look after the family on her own. Jon said that she worked long hours for little pay and the family were always poor. Still, there were plenty of good times. Jon was free to roam around unsupervised and never ran into any trouble, despite the neighbourhood’s rough reputation.

When he was about 12 years old Jon got a job as a paperboy, delivering to the local area on his bicycle. After a few weeks a man who worked for the newspapers asked if he’d like to earn a bit more cash selling papers in the inner city. Jon eagerly agreed and started almost immediately. He explained to the Commissioner how a typical workday played out, starting when he was picked up from school:

‘There would already be children, basically in the back of the truck, that was sort of like a cage truck. And we would hop in the back of this truck and then we would be taken in. And the papers were already in position and we would get dropped off in those places, so I would work outside a pub or wherever that position was. But there was definitely a hierarchy and a pecking order and it impacted directly on your earnings.’

Shortly after Jon finished his first shift, the man who coordinated the boys came up to him and said that from now on ‘You can travel with me’. At that time the man’s practice was to trail the truck in his sedan.

‘And I didn’t know any different, so I would travel with him … And from the beginning he used to sort of say, “Well, you come and sit right next to me”, even though it was a bench seat. And so he would go across and put his arm around me and basically began from day one used to put his hand down my pants and carry on. And this happened every time and it went on for several months.’

Jon said that all the other boys seemed to know what the man was up to. ‘It was almost like, “Oh, it’s this kid’s turn”. The other kids in the truck used to have a go at me because I was “that kid”. But it would appear that several of them had gone through it, or it was well known.’

One day the man asked Jon if he’d like to earn some more money doing odd jobs around his house. Jon agreed and visited the man’s house on three occasions to wash his car and do other work. ‘And basically he would sort of assault me during that time. There was never any penetration, it was always him fondling me.’

While this was going on, Jon received preferential treatment at work and was allocated the most lucrative spots to sell his newspapers. Looking back, he sees the situation as ‘Dickensian’.

‘It’s almost like Oliver Twist, where you had the Fagan character. The other kids knew. Everyone knew what was going on. But I guess everyone who was doing that work was in the same situation. We’d all come from the same area, and again on reflection it’s targeting vulnerable kids in a vulnerable area … the evil bit was how they linked it to income. It was almost as though, “You want the good corner, you’ve got to play the game”.’

The abuse ended when Jon went to a high school outside the area and no longer had time to sell the newspapers. He did reasonably well at school, got a good job, travelled around Australia and internationally, got married and started a family. In all this time he never mentioned the abuse to anyone.

‘I never told my mother. Never told anybody. In fact I only told my wife last night and my mother last night, which was really tough on her … I mean, as a parent, if your child come to you and said, “You know what, that teacher in grade 7 was a child molester”, you would probably feel that you’ve let that child down. I think my mum’s feeling a bit funny about that today, but I’ll talk to her.’

Jon said he’s never been able to put his finger on exactly why he didn’t tell anyone about the abuse at the time. Nor is he able to identify what specific effects it has had on his life, though he suspects it has had some influence.

‘When you have something happen unexpectedly or there’s an outburst or something, you think, was that seed planted back then? … I know that over my lifetime I’ve had instances and certain personality quirks or traits that may have been carried over from that.’

Specifically, Jon cited the difficulty he has handling conflict. He said that in such situations he tends to revert to a ‘fight or flight’ response, either retreating or lashing out. Over the years he’s discussed some of these issues with psychologists without ever mentioning the sexual abuse. Recently he’s been diagnosed with chronic depression.

Jon was careful to add that his personal issues were ‘secondary’ to the real reason he decided to finally break the silence and tell his story to the Royal Commission. He said, ‘Since I can remember I have always had a strong belief system, not religious but doing the right thing … It seemed the right thing to do.’

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