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Abbass's story

Abbass was born in Lebanon in the 1960s. His large family, fleeing the war, came to Australia when Abbass was 10 or 11. By then Abbass had witnessed torture, shootings and the death, by bombing, of a close relative.

The family settled in suburban Sydney. Abbass loved school but ‘stuffed up, stealing cars and all that’. His first charge, which resulted in a good behaviour bond, was for stealing from a drink machine at the age of 12 or 13. He started to act out in more risky ways. ‘I thought I was like, like a Superman. Untouchable, at the age of 14, 15. I thought I could probably fly.’

Abbass received his first custodial sentence at the age of 15 for car theft. He was sent to a youth detention centre in the city and later to a regional facility. A fellow inmate accused him of sexual abuse. Although Abbass claimed he was innocent, he was charged and found guilty of indecent assault.

Abbass was then sent to an adult male prison. He was about 16 years old.

One of the officers at the youth detention centre said to Abbass, ‘They’ll teach you a lesson at [name of] jail’.

Having heard stories about what happened in adult prisons, and with a charge of indecent assault to his name, Abbass thought ‘Fuck, I’m gone’.

In prison, Abbass was raped by an inmate, whose name he can’t remember. ‘He was like a hulk, like a big man, a really big man with tattoos.’ This man and his ‘mates’ sexually abused Abbass on a number of occasions.

After Abbass had been in prison for four weeks, there was a prison guard strike, during which the facility was run by police. Inmates were kept in their cells. Abbass was happy about this as it meant his abusers had no access to him. When the police discovered Abbass’s young age, they were unwilling to take responsibility for him. They released him overnight and Abbass stayed with his family. He thought he had been freed.

However, the following day he was taken back to the regional youth detention centre. There, because of his sexual assault charge, he was laughed at and called a ‘faggot’. He had no friends. ‘I was so scared, I really was.’

Although Abbass wanted to speak to the authorities about his abuse, he was ‘too embarrassed and too shocked’ to do so.

‘I used to think, like, I was a tough guy and I didn’t want to say a word … look, it just fuckin’ broke me. It really fuckin’ destroyed my fuckin’ life.’

When Abbass was released, still a teenager, he got straight into heavy drugs. He wanted to forget. For support he relied on family and ‘robbing’. Almost 20 years later, in the late 1990s, Abbass returned to prison, he believes for a car stealing offence. He has been in and out of prison ever since and has spent approximately seven years of his adult life in custody. He is currently in custody but is confident, due to his medical program, he will be able to stay off drugs upon his release.

Abbass has adult children from his first marriage, with whom he has contact. His second marriage is breaking down. When asked about his siblings, from whom Abbass is estranged, he told the Commissioner that he was the only one that ‘went off the road’. His siblings have all worked hard and done well in life. His hot-tempered father, however, is an alcoholic and has severe health problems.

Abbass has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression and has other serious health issues. He has never disclosed his abuse to a counsellor. ‘Too embarrassed.’ The first time he spoke about it was to a fellow inmate just two months ago. He opened up ‘for some reason’.

Apart from owning his own home, Abbass, now in his 50s, has little in place once he is released. ‘There’s no support. I’m living all alone. There’s no one.’ However, he does have a good GP.

Abbass has not tried to seek compensation. ‘It’s a long process and I think I won’t get nowhere, especially with my record.’

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