Content Warning: This post deals with themes of child abuse. If this affects you or someone you know, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
This October is an important month for Jarad, a 36-year-old man who is painting a fingernail for a cause.
That cause is the Polished Man campaign, a charitable movement that asks men and women to paint a nail to raise awareness and funds to end violence against children. The nail is a conversation starter that goes beyond just a social media post.
Run by not-for-profit YGAP, the Polished Man campaign raises funds towards trauma recovery and prevention programs for children who are suffering or at risk of violence.
The statistics are sobering. Around the world, one child dies every five minutes because of violence. An estimated 120 million girls and 73 million boys have been victims of sexual violence.
For Jarad, the campaign hits close to home. He is a survivor of abuse.
It’s not an easy thing to talk about. The wounds are lifelong, and revisiting them can be triggering. Jarad spoke to Mamamia in the hope of helping others to prevent the kind of trauma he experienced, to help others to understand the effects – and to get everyone’s nail polished for a good cause.
Jarad grew up in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. When he was 10, his family moved to the Sutherland Shire.
In the street where he grew up, Jarad had always been around children and teenagers of all ages. Through his involvement in his local church, Jarad also had positive teenage role models of different ages. It was not unusual for him to spend time with older kids.
But it was his friendship with a next-door neighbour that took a turn Jarad couldn’t quite comprehend, when he was just eight years of age.
“When I was a kid, this stuff just wasn’t on our radar. You didn’t hear about it, you didn’t talk about it,” Jarad tells Mamamia. “The fact that there was a guy next door who wanted to hang out with me who was 17 or 18, was initially exciting for me and he was the same age as the older siblings of my friends.”
By the age of 14, Jarad had started seeing news stories on TV and in the papers about abuse. It all suddenly made sense.
"[The stories] made me realise that I hadn't really consented to what had happened," he says. "Up to that point I thought I had to take responsibility for what had happened. I always thought it was my fault – that I could've stopped it. The reality is, I was the one who stopped it. I just said 'no' one day and I remember doing that. The next five years it was just only me who knew."
Always the "conscientious kid" at school, Jarad tried not to let his secret affect his schooling life. But beneath the pressures he put on himself to "do well", Jarad felt deeply insecure about himself and his friendships.
"I think I just had this negative view of myself because of what had happened," he says. "I would still say I'm insecure. At my worst periods now, my default is to expect people not to like me or not to want to be around me."
At the age of 16, like many teenagers, he had his first drink – and that's when his secret started to unravel.
"I got smashed and just started jumping in front of cars. That really surprised my friends because I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kinda guy up until that point," he says. "[And then] I ended up in the gutter with my best mate telling him everything.
"They encouraged me to tell somebody. I told some family friends, who encouraged me to tell my parents and I told my dad. And he told my mother. I was about 17."
With the support of his family and extensive counselling, Jarad was able to confront the situation. Along with that came feelings of guilt – what many survivors of abuse feel – for not stepping forward earlier.
"I wish I'd told somebody as soon as it was happening. I remember I probably had the opportunity, but I thought I would get in trouble," he says. "The guy made me think that I would get in trouble with my parents because I would get busted."
Since then, Jarad has been in touch with a network of other survivors, nearly all of whom have only been able to speak about their abuse by the time they're in their 40s or 50s.
To anyone who can relate to these experiences, Jarad says: "My advice would be to find someone to speak to and speak up. To find a safe person."
Jarad's personal experience prompted him to become a Polished Man for the month of October.
The campaign invites individuals and teams to paint their nails and set up fundraising pages – just as Jarad has done. He's already raised more than $3000 – which is a massive achievement.
YGAP will distribute the funds to ventures that target the primary cause of violence against children – poverty – as well as emergency relief to those who have survived physical and/or sexual violence. The ventures will be programs run by the Australian Childhood Foundation, Hagar Australia, the New York Centre for Children and World Vision Australia.
For Jarad, the cause is personal. But the impact is far-reaching.
"I'm in a much better place," Jarad says. "There's not much good in it happening. But if I can use it positively to improve the lives of other people, I show myself how much I can sit outside of the situation and how I don't have to be defined by it.
"This is my way of saying this doesn't define me anymore. I am in control of this, this isn't in control of me."
Click here to sponsor Jarad in YGAP's Polished Man campaign.
To get involved in the Polished Man, visit polishedman.com.au.
If you or anyone you know needs to talk to a trained professional, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you believe a child is in immediate danger call Police on 000.
If you are a man in need of support, visit the Survivors & Mates Support Network's website at samsn.org.au.
Adam Bub is the Commercial Editor of Mamamia, and a proud ambassador of the Polished Man campaign.