In the early 2000s, Aidan was sent to a Victorian juvenile justice centre for a period of nine months. He was 17 years old. In the centre he found a culture of violence and abuse.
‘A few workers who were there, older workers, they used to come into the cells and threaten us. Assaulted some people. Sexually assaulted. They were bringing drugs in to try to keep us quiet … They pretty much tried to bribe us.’
On a number of occasions Aidan was found to have drugs in his cell. Despite there being no way he could have been given the drugs from outside, no action was taken by the centre authorities. Aidan was threatened by the workers to keep his silence.
‘Early in the mornings, [they] used to come in, open the door and threaten me and say “Listen, you say anything about it, you know we can get into the cell whenever we want”.’
He coped with his trauma by using drugs and has been in and out of prison since his time in the juvenile justice centre.
‘I used a lot of drugs. I had a heroin problem and ever since [the abuse] it’s just been in and out. That’s why I’m speaking about it. Hopefully it will help me.’
He didn’t tell anyone about his abuse until very recently. ‘I was going to tell my parents but I didn’t know how to tell them, and I knew my dad would react badly.’
He had a caseworker at the centre who he could talk to ‘about most things’ but Aidan felt that because the caseworker knew the men who were abusing him, he couldn’t confide in him. Aidan was also concerned that if he reported the abuse he might be singled out for media attention.
He also didn’t speak out about his abuse when he was 17 years old because of shame he felt. ‘It was more embarrassment that it happened. Meant to be a man and in control.’
To combat the shame of abuse, Aidan believes that people need to talk about abuse as soon as it occurs. ‘Bring it up straight away, because the longer you hold it you don’t want to bring it up. Get rid of it before it becomes shame.’
His parents recently died and he feels their loss deeply. ‘The only reason I brought it up [now] is because … I want to get a lot off my chest. I’ve been thinking heaps since they’ve gone because I put them through a lot and they’ve always stuck by me. And I was in prison when they both passed away.’
Aidan believes that the abuse has affected his whole life. ‘I have got a lot of anger issues … and I’m pretty self-destructive. I feel that if that didn’t happen I probably wouldn’t be in and out of prison.’
Aidan told the Commissioner that he is now ready for counselling.
‘Talking about it, that’s the first step.’