Pierce was very young when his father died. His mother’s health was poor and the family moved to Melbourne so she could receive treatment. Unwell and on her own, she struggled to raise the children. Pierce first went into care in the mid-1970s, when he was around eight years old.
In an early placement Pierce had to share a room with his foster parents’ son. ‘I’m not sure whether or not he was a couple of years older than me or if he was my age, but he was physically bigger than me ... I was a pretty, like, quiet kid, and a bit naive I think, you know what I mean. And for the first few days he was bullying me and dominating me.’
One night Pierce woke up ‘and he was in the same bed as me ... He was playing around with me. I said, “Don’t”. I freaked out. And he put his hand on me and said, “Look, shut up”.’
The boy told Pierce he would hurt his mother in hospital if he didn’t comply. ‘I just remember I felt scared, and he was fiddling with me, and I had to play with him as well ... That continued for the majority of my stay there.’
Pierce was attending a local school and told an older boy there about the abuse. This boy cared for Pierce, who – now feeling like he had some protection – resisted further attempts at abuse by his foster brother, sleeping on the couch instead of sharing a room.
Soon afterwards Pierce’s mother recovered enough for him to return to the family. He never disclosed the abuse to anyone, but remembered his foster brother’s threats against his mother ‘like a phantom in my head’.
Pierce continued to go in and out of care when his mother was ill. He started getting into trouble in his early teens and left school as soon as he could, moving into a youth accommodation centre. He began using drugs and alcohol, leading to problems with police and admission to boys’ homes, and eventually adult prison.
His criminal offending escalated and he moved around the country, being incarcerated in a number of cities. Despite participating in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous his substance use remained problematic. Even so, he managed to hold down employment as a support worker for young people, and maintain a long-term relationship.
When Pierce was in his 30s he ‘lost the plot’ and received a lengthy prison sentence for sexual assault. Although having a substantial criminal history, this was the first time he had committed that kind of offence and he still doesn’t know why he did it. He would like to undergo the sex offenders program offered in jail, but isn’t yet eligible to participate.
His sexual offending worries him greatly and he wishes to gain some insight into what caused it and how to prevent it in the future. ‘I haven’t had no counselling ... It’s only near the tail-end of my sentence where they’ll give me the programs I need to get well ... I might have done things wrong, but I think with the right help I could do good ... I don’t want to wait until I’ve done 20 years before they start helping me. Because I believe I can assist myself in healing.’
Pierce had not told anyone about the sexual abuse in his childhood until he spoke to the Royal Commission. Even when being interviewed for the pre-sentence report on this latest matter, and asked directly if he had ever been abused, he could not disclose it.
At this time he does not wish to report the abuse to police nor seek financial compensation, but a legal firm is assisting with accessing his welfare records. He has the ongoing support of his family, who live interstate but maintain contact while he’s in custody.
Sometimes Pierce wonders what he would be like if he hadn’t gone into care or been abused - whether he would have married and had children of his own. ‘The bottom line is I would like to see – if there’s such a thing as a multiverse – I’d like to see me in that universe where I wasn’t hurt as a kid. I think my kids would be playing round with my nephews and nieces, and I would be out there with a wife and a house. And I’d be a decent bloke.’