Because of his upbringing and the sexual abuse he experienced as a child, Travis has difficulty seeing his sexual crimes against children as more than acts of ‘love and affection, that’s gone too far’. Travis told the Commissioner that he had a stern upbringing ‘very mechanical, very robotic, for want of a better description’, but believes his parents did the best they could.
In the early 1970s, when Travis was five, he often attended Sunday school with his babysitter, a woman who lived in his street in regional New South Wales. Vanessa also minded him at her house and let him and other neighbourhood children use her pool.
Vanessa began sexually abusing Travis both at the Sunday school and at her house, and the abuse continued for about four or five years. The abuse ‘revolved around my urination and my defecation … She would fondle genitals … There was nothing physically done, no physical trauma so to speak … There were a couple of times there when I would say, “Why? Why do I have to be naked all the time? Why aren’t you naked all the time?” and this sort of thing’.
Travis told the Commissioner that when Vanessa took him into another room at the Sunday school where the abuse took place, ‘there were situations where you would be exposed to other members of the church group … They would talk about certain aspects of defecation, urination … It was almost like Vanessa was reporting to these people about more or less, I guess, progress with what was occurring’.
If Travis was in the pool and told the babysitter that he needed to go to the toilet, ‘she would float over and would put her hands inside my pants and she would cup my genitals’. Travis told his mother what Vanessa was doing, and she told him he didn’t need to see her anymore.
When Travis was 11 he suffered a violent sexual assault in a public toilet. When he went home afterwards he was ‘black-and-blue’ and bleeding and told his mother that he had fallen off his bike to explain the injuries and the gravel rash he’d got from the rough concrete floor of the toilets.
After this violent assault, ‘I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do’, so when a friend asked if he was interested in going to the Scouts with him, Travis thought it seemed like a good idea.
At 13 Travis was at a scout camp and was invited by some older boys to go for a smoke. When they walked into the bush he was confronted by one of the adult male scout leaders who was ‘openly masturbating the boys around him and instructing each one how to perform oral sex on him’.
Travis told the Commissioner, ‘I didn’t want to be there but was forced to be there by the other boys and I was forced to have my turn. Again, I told my mother … so my experience with the Scouts was very short-lived’.
Travis has an extensive history of sexual abuse against children, including his stepdaughters. ‘The first time I considered offending, I … had a complete mental breakdown … and I couldn’t tell anybody because I was considering … I had thoughts of offending against my stepdaughters, which I did end up doing.’
Travis suffers from long-term mental health issues, including depression and anxiety and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘As part of what happened to me, I now suffer in jail. I lived on my own on the outside as much as possible and that is for reasons of being able to use the toilet since the occurrence when I was 11 … I cannot use a public toilet.’
Although he’d taken prescribed medication for mental health issues before being sent to jail, he had to wait four and a half years in custody before seeing a psychiatrist and being put back on this medication.
Travis’s lawyer suggested that they could use his sexual abuse as a child as a cycle of abuse defence. Travis refused, ‘because in my mind, if I’ve been through something like that, isn’t that more reason that I would not be an offender, more so than I would be an offender? I felt that to use that in my sentencing … I felt that was pretty weak … It seemed like a weak excuse’.
Travis never told anyone except his mother about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. When she died, ‘it was almost like, from a child’s point of view, the problems were offloaded to Mum, so she bore the burden. When Mum died, suddenly like the burden was thrown back at me and then I heard about you guys and I thought, okay’, which was when Travis decided to approach the Royal Commission to tell his story.