Nigel grew up in a household filled with alcohol and violence. He was raped numerous times by both his father and older brother, from when he was around six years old.
‘I tried to tell me mum about that. But she wouldn’t believe it. She used to tell me, don’t be silly.’ Nigel used to like going to school, as it meant he could get away from the dangers of his home, but found it hard to learn much.
In the early 1970s, when he was 10 years old, he was operated on for appendicitis in Sydney’s western suburbs. It was his mum’s day to go to the club, so she just dropped him off at the public hospital and left again.
‘My mother was not at the hospital when I came out of surgery, so I was upset.’ One of the male nurses comforted him, holding his hand and saying ‘I will look after you’.
This nurse would bring Nigel chips and lollies, and asked if Nigel wanted to come swimming at his house when he got out of hospital. He then sexually abused Nigel.
‘He came into my room and said, I have to look at where you had the operation. As he was looking he put his hand down my private part, and started rubbing my private. I ask him to stop and ask for the head nurse. He told me the head nurse went home. He said, “I’m sorry, I will not do it again”.’
Nigel was scared, and the next day disclosed the abuse to his mother. ‘I was told, don’t be telling stories. I told my mum but no care from her, just drop me off at home and went to the pub.’
It didn’t seem like there was any point in telling anyone else what had happened. ‘No, because if your own mother don’t believe you, who else is going to?’
As a teenager, Nigel began truanting, became increasingly aggressive, and had suicidal thoughts. He has been admitted to mental health facilities dozens of times since his early teens and is currently on medication for a number of psychiatric conditions.
At the first facility he told staff about the sexual abuse he had experienced, ‘but nothing ever happened. That’s why I gave up’.
There was never an attempt by staff to help him deal with the trauma of his past, only to manage his symptoms. ‘That’s all they done. Just try to keep you level-minded.’ On increasing amounts of medication, ‘I was bombed out all the time’.
In later years, Nigel began sexually abusing children himself, and has been incarcerated for these offences. ‘I’m ashamed that I came into it. Today, when you’ve been in jail a long time, and you think about it, you know, I’ve written out the whole long story of my life, of all the bad things that I’ve got to look at, to readdress, for when I do get out.’
It was in jail that mental health professionals finally started addressing the abuse he had experienced as a child, as well as his criminal behaviours. ‘They’re the only ones who wanted to know about it.’
Nigel told the Commissioner that ‘coming into jail has helped me a lot’. He has learned to read and write and is currently studying. A fellow inmate introduced him to religion, which has given him a community to belong to. ‘For many, many years I was looking for something to fit in.’
He lives with guilt about his offending and is determined not repeat this behaviour. He made a number of suggestions regarding the treatment of convicted child sex offenders, including himself.
These recommendations include treatment programs in jail and strict parole conditions, the wearing of a tracking bracelet at all times, and compulsory attendance at training courses and regular revision sessions post-release. ‘I can guarantee, once I get out, I won’t be coming back to jail.’