In the midst of family conflict and ‘nasty court battles’ as his parents fought over custody of their children, Pat found life when he was young ‘very tough’.
After a period of rebellion in the 1980s when he ‘spent a lot of time inside the principal’s office’, Pat, then aged in his early teens, was sent to a government-run farm school in the Australian Capital Territory.
During the few weeks he was there, Pat was raped by staff member Jordan Copeland, who was an employee of the Department of Education.
Pat didn’t report Copeland to anyone at the time nor for decades afterwards. He felt this was in part because the assault didn’t fit in with what he knew about masculinity.
‘The biggest thing that I find that I’ve lost out of all this is I don’t feel like a man because men are supposed to be strong, men are supposed to be the breadwinner. They’re supposed to be the dominant one.’
In response to the assault he became ‘a fighter’.
‘I’d just fight you know, I was bouncing at clubs and pubs and all I wanted to do was fight.’
For some years he served with the defence force. He later built up a successful business but was deceived by others and lost significant amounts of money.
‘Once again I got screwed again, as I put it in my life you know. I was a loser again.’
At various times Pat used drugs as an attempt to take away memories of the abuse. In the mid-1990s he went to rehab and ‘things started gelling’, particularly in relation to his anger and the aggressive behaviours he’d exhibited towards others, sometimes in front of his partner and children.
Following his time in rehab, he reported Copeland to ACT Police.
Copeland was charged and the matter proceeded past committal to trial. However, on the on the first day of the trial, Pat was told the matter had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
He couldn’t fathom why prior sexual abuse charges against Copeland weren’t allowed to be brought up in court.
‘I don’t understand that. You know, if you’ve got a bloke who’s had two prior accusations … and here you’ve got another one, surely someone’s got to be right and someone’s got to be wrong don’t they? How can three people be wrong about the same thing?’
And he remained angry that he didn’t ever have any sense of justice having been served.
‘Camaraderie is one of the best things, and mateship is something you can never replace in this world. You can replace a wife, you can replace a lot of things, but you can’t replace mateship when you rely on each other and that’s who you are – whether it be football, whether it be in the services, you know.
‘And back again, that’s where I’m still disillusioned with the justice system and everything like that, you know, like how can, like I don’t know if I’m talking out of school or jumping off topic but the thing that annoys me the most with that case is still to this day I’ve had no written explanation, no nothing to tell me why it was just thrown out at the beginning of the trial.’
Pat had never sought counselling. Nor had he pursued any claim for compensation against Copeland or the Department of Education.
‘Compensation to me isn’t a monetary value. My compensation is to see the bloke actually up on the stand and to have my day in court.’