Mason James's story

‘I got full recollection of memories and I hate that, and it’s usually I’m stoned every day, but youse got me off as soon as I was awake so I haven’t had a chance to get on yet.’

Mason has spent most of the past 17 years in jail in Victoria, due to drug-related crimes. He told the Commissioner that he uses drugs to block out the memories of the sexual abuse he experienced when he was a child.

In the mid-1980s, when Mason was four and a half, he was at his uncle’s place, where ‘I was instructed to do things … sickening things … He’s actually been charged, and got 12 months for it … and I’ve been using drugs all this time … and for using drugs I’ve done 17 years [in] jail and that’s just wrecked me. I’m damaged now’.

Mason’s uncle made him perform sexual acts on his female cousin, and he also witnessed his uncle sexually abusing her. His cousin reported her father when she was 13 and Mason was 11. When she received a compensation payment for the abuse she suffered, ‘no one ever asked me if anything had happened to me’.

Mason was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was nine, and this caused problems for his parents and siblings. When he was 11, his parents placed him in care, after ‘I chucked a knife at my father over a cigarette. I regret doing that, and that’s why I got sent to [a boys’ home]’. He spent 10 months in a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers, and found it ‘a very scary place’. At 12, he was housed in a unit with much older boys, aged between 15 and 18.

Mason enjoyed painting, so when he heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that a watercolour class was about to start, he decided to join it. He was the only one in the room with the teacher, an elderly Christian Brother, ‘and this is where it started happening … He was always standing behind me, doing things … he’d put his hands down my pants … it happened … four or five times before he disappeared. They wouldn’t tell me what happened to him’.

After he left the boys’ home, Mason ‘started like really, really mucking up … doing armed robberies at 15’. He spent time in a number of juvenile detention centres before progressing to adult jail.

Mason told the Commissioner that he never reported the sexual abuse he suffered at the boys’ home or at the hands of his uncle, because he was brought up to believe that ‘if you tell stories to the police, you’re a dog’.

Mason is in the process of applying for compensation, with the help of the legal service, Knowmore. If he receives a payment, he would like to repay his father for some of the money he has taken from him over the years, to buy drugs. ‘I’m actually disgusted with myself for it, ’cause it wrecks Mum’s life too.’

Mason has serious mental health issues, including an acquired brain injury, due to sniffing drugs when he was young. He has had 23 admissions to psychiatric wards in 15 years, and has attempted to take his own life numerous times. He believes the sexual abuse he experienced has affected his ability to have sexual relationships with women, and he doesn’t ‘feel comfortable being with a female’.

Mason told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve had friends that’ve been in care, foster care and that, and they don’t get treated right. Even if they’re not sexually abused, they don’t get treated right’.

Mason believes that people who work with children should be required to undergo stringent psychiatric testing and screening, and that all existing Catholic children’s organisations should be shut down, ‘because the Devil can tempt anyone’.

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