Child sex abuse victim lashes out at “betrayal”

 

A man who was sexually abused as a child by his supervisor at a Townsville sporting association said he felt "betrayed" by the federal program set up to respond to institutional child sexual abuse.

Beau (not his real name) was 14 when Joel Robert Conn, then 18, groomed him, eventually offering him gifts in return for sexual acts. The abuse took place between 2002 and 2003 when Beau was a referee at Townsville Basketball.

In 2016 Conn was found guilty of abusing Beau at a number of locations including a room at the basketball courts. He was convicted of eight offences including indecent treatment of a child and procuring another child, a 13-year-old, to engage in sexual acts at a toilet block at the courts but never spent time behind bars.

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Conn's appeal against his conviction was dismissed a year after he was found guilty in 2016.

In June last year, Beau applied to join the National Redress Scheme, which was set up during 2018 in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

A man who was sexually abused as a child when he was a referee at Townsville Basketball said there have been lasting impacts on his life. FILE PICTURE
A man who was sexually abused as a child when he was a referee at Townsville Basketball said there have been lasting impacts on his life. FILE PICTURE

"Obviously I want acknowledgment from Townsville Basketball that this happened by their employee on their watch," Beau told the Townsville Bulletin.

"When an organisation signs up to the scheme it sends a message to the community that it is unacceptable and that (organisation) will be held to account."

Beau campaigned for more than six months and reached out to all levels of government in an effort to get the association to sign up.

But instead of finding out from the federal government agency that the club was in the process of joining he found out from the Townsville Bulletin.

He said he was told by his caseworker just last week that the scheme had no record of any application on behalf of Townsville Basketball, despite the association filing paperwork in October last year.

A Department of Social Services spokesman confirmed the National Redress Scheme had received a formal letter of intent to join from Townsville Basketball.

Beau said this lack of communication felt like a "betrayal" and caused him to relive a lot of his trauma. "It is disheartening because it is a process that is incredibly intimate, probably the most intimate situation you could deal with a government agency regarding," he said,

"You assume the scheme is going to do the right thing by the people they are protecting.

"It does feel like a massive let-down."

As a result of his abuse, Beau said he lived with ongoing trauma and anxiety that was exacerbated by the scheme's poor communication. The Bulletin has sighted a signed letter from Townsville Basketball committing to join the scheme from October last year.

Townsville Basketball general manager Mark Wrobel said the association provided financial records and other required documentation but that he had not heard "anything" from the program since November 2020.

Townsville Basketball general manager Mark Wrobel stepped into the role in 2019, he said the organisation provided the required documents but had not heard back from the scheme since November. Picture: Evan Morgan
Townsville Basketball general manager Mark Wrobel stepped into the role in 2019, he said the organisation provided the required documents but had not heard back from the scheme since November. Picture: Evan Morgan

But despite its commitment to the National Redress Scheme, Townsville Basketball is not named on the public database listing all organisations that have, or intend to sign up.

Mr Wrobel said he did not know why.

"As soon as we were made aware of the scheme we started immediate dialogue to find out our obligations," he said,

"Any child protection matters are something we take seriously.

"There is a process we are going through and we are following that process."

In a statement from the Department of Social Services, a spokesman said on-boarding of non-government institutions could take up to six months due to the technical and operational requirements.

He said institutions that fail to meet their obligations to join the scheme would be publicly named.

The federal government named a group of institutions that fail to sign up to the scheme and has said it would continue to identify organisations that do not join within six months of them being contacted.

Townsville Basketball's on-boarding for the scheme must be finalised by April 30 this year.

If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

Headspace on 1800 650 890

ReachOut at au.reachout.com

Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774

Originally published as Child sex abuse victim lashes out at "betrayal"