Trent James's story

Trent was born in the early 1990s, and raised in Queensland foster homes. When he was around five years old, he was placed with a family who had an older adopted son, Xavier, who was in his late teens.

When Trent’s foster parents went out, Xavier would be left to look after him. Putting on pornographic films, Xavier would make Trent watch them too, and get him to act out scenes. This included performing oral sex on Xavier.

This abuse happened on a few occasions. Trent didn’t really understand what he was doing, and Xavier told him he would get into trouble if he said anything. He also instructed Trent to ‘practice’.

‘I had a big fluffy bunny rabbit, and he told me to practice on the bunny rabbit. It had a carrot.’ His foster mother saw him doing this, and asked what was going on.

Trent told her what he and Xavier had been doing. Xavier denied it, and Trent thinks they didn’t really believe him.

‘They used to call me the kid who cried wolf ... I don’t even know why a five or six-year-old would come up with something like that.’

He doesn’t know what, if any, action was taken against Xavier by his foster parents, but Xavier did not abuse him again.

His foster mum said he shouldn’t tell anyone about him and Xavier. He had a caseworker, but didn’t disclose the abuse because he feared the repercussions.

By the age of 15 Trent was living on the streets. He ran into Xavier, who had his own place by then and took him in for a while. He confronted Xavier about the abuse, but Xavier again denied it had ever happened, and kicked him out.

Xavier is now a religious minister and has a child of his own, and ‘I’m happy for him’.

When Trent spoke to the Royal Commission, he had still never reported Xavier to police or other authorities. He doesn’t want to see Xavier get into trouble.

‘Him going to jail doesn’t make me feel any better, it does nothing for me. So what’s the point of him going to jail? That’s the way I look at it.’

Even so, he is concerned that he still has access to kids now, and this gives him an opportunity to re-offend. ‘I pray to God, that he doesn’t ... I don’t want it to happen to any other kids. It screwed my life up.’

Trent moved to another foster placement, with a woman who treated him very well. He still speaks with her today. ‘She’s the only person who never turned her back on me.’

After this carer was denied a ‘blue card’ because of previous drug offences, he was removed from her care, even though ‘I was in a safe environment’. He told the social workers he wanted to stay, but they wouldn’t allow it.

They placed him in a youth shelter, where the residents were not adequately supervised, instead. At 16 he was one of the youngest residents, and shared a bedroom with an older boy called Matt.

Matt drugged Trent, and sexually abused him. Trent woke up and was able to fight him off, and reported the assault to staff at the shelter. They contacted police, and Matt was charged.

Trent believes Matt was convicted and received a custodial sentence. Trent wasn’t asked if he would like counselling, or told how to apply for victims of crime compensation.

Although Trent reported this abuse to Child Welfare, they did not help him in any way. They didn’t offer him any counselling either, or alternative accommodation. ‘They just forgot about me.’

After this incident, Trent stayed living at the shelter for a little while. Because he was a ward of the state, many hostels would only allow him to stay for a short period.

He was discharged from care without any follow up, and ended up living in his car. Trent didn’t feel there was anyone he could turn to for assistance or support, and survived the best he could on his own.

Still 16 years old, he made a suicide attempt. ‘I was hurting, and I had no one.’

Trent has been in and out of jail ever since leaving care. He has never received his care files, but has enquired about them.

‘They said it would be worse on me, knowing what happened ... I know there’s going to be some bad stuff in there.’

He has never had any counselling, as he has always been suspicious of therapy and finds it hard to trust people. ‘I can’t just talk to anyone.’

Trent is not interested in compensation if it was to be paid by the individuals who abused him, as this would cause them hardship. ‘I just don’t see how that benefits anyone ... I wouldn’t want someone doing it to me, so I wouldn’t do it to someone else.’

He feels differently about compensation paid by the state, who were responsible for his care at the time he was abused. ‘If they had done their job right, that wouldn’t have happened to me’. Still, ‘I’d prefer their apology to the money any day’.

Asked what has kept him going through the hard times, Trent said he reminds himself that ‘there’s always someone out there that’s had it worse you know, there’s someone else out there doing it worse’.

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