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Scott James's story

Between the ages of two and 18, Scott was ‘in and out’ between his mother’s guardianship and being a ward of the state of Western Australia. During some periods of his childhood, he moved back to live with his mother and stepfather but violence in the home usually brought the attention of police and welfare staff and Scott would be removed and placed in care.

At six, he was sent to a government-run residential facility near Perth. ‘There was two staff that I had problems with. There was the first one. I was very clingy and a very needy sort of a kid but lost, and so we had the old guy who done the laundry rounds with a buggy and he used to go and pick up all the clothing from the units, that sort of stuff, all the houses that we stayed in. So sometimes I’d go for a ride in the buggy with him you know, and I’d come down to the laundry and stuff like that.’

The man first ‘sort of kissed’ Scott, then began fondling his genitals and over a year he repeatedly digitally penetrated him. The man told Scott it was ‘our special time’ and when Scott reported the abuse to another worker, he was called a liar and belted, after which he started wetting the bed. ‘I felt I was lost’, he said.

The first time he tried to escape was in a ‘green machine’ pedal car. ‘I went inside and got my teddy bear and I jumped on the green machine and waited till it was all quiet, and I took off out onto the roads of [the town]. And I was gone. I was going because I wanted to get away from it. And then they brought me back.’

In the early 1980s, when he was aged about eight, Scott was sexually abused by a man who lived on a farm he’d run away to. ‘He said if you tell anyone, I’ll kill you’, Scott said. Over the following years, he stayed at the farm intermittently as he had nowhere else to go. At one stage he ran from the farm but was picked up and returned by government welfare workers. When Scott told his assigned welfare worker that he’d been sexually abused by the man, he wasn’t believed.

‘I told him a couple of times, but very limited and he dismissed it, so then I never ever said nothing to anyone again until later on.’

During his childhood and teenage years, Scott was also repeatedly raped by a man who accommodated homeless youth in his house. Scott stayed with the man under a respite arrangement approved by the Department of Community Services. Other children were also sent to stay with the man and ‘stuff was happening there with other kids and with me’, Scott said.

When he was 14, Scott told a doctor about the rapes he’d experienced and the doctor recommended he ‘put it in the past and move on’, before prescribing him Valium.

Scott said he began drinking heavily at 13 and in ensuing years was imprisoned several times in juvenile detention centres. He spent a short period of time in jail at 18 and when he came out, married a woman much older than he.

‘I felt secure with her. She was very healthy and a loving person. We travelled a lot and of course I drank as well which made things not good, but we worked through it all. I tried to see counsellors and stuff and so on, but it just – I’m pretty buggered up from my childhood you know.’

Scott said he found social situations with his wife difficult and didn’t trust anyone with his children. ‘I would not let anyone babysit … I couldn’t trust anyone. It was quite horrible to not be able to trust anyone in the social circle.’

In 2008, Scott received $45,000 from Western Australia redress scheme. He was assisted by Legal Aid to make a civil claim against the government in relation to his abuse by the man his welfare worker had returned him to. No other abuse was disclosed because Scott said his lawyer told him that ‘the lack of information’ would make any other action difficult. As a result of this claim, Scott received $116,000 of which he paid $2,000 in legal fees.

Scott spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he was serving a sentence for domestic violence and sexual offences committed against a woman he met after separating from his first wife. Scott denied the sexual offences and when found guilty, felt ‘shattered’. ‘I’m just not that person’, he said.

He’d done several courses in jail including one aimed at stopping family violence. ‘Me being convicted of domestic violence and serving a jail term has really opened my eyes up and I only wish that this sort of stuff that happens now was available back when I was a kid.’

He said he hoped that what the abuse he’d experienced wasn’t repeated for any other child.

‘The whole reason why I’m actually doing this is not for anything else but for the future of kids and this never happens to them again, because it was a horrifying thing back then for me to go through, and for any kid to go through the way the government was back then …

‘I think that just recently, the last two or three years, domestic violence has come pretty big on the screen and I actually feel quite happy that so much is happening but I feel sad because I was actually a perpetrator at the end. And right now I hate people who hit women or bash women up. I can’t stand it.’

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