Alan Sam's story

Alan’s relationship with his big brother was a violent one and it was the catalyst for him running away from home in the early 1990s, when he was in his early teens.

He lived on the streets of western Sydney, ‘drunk every night, drunk till I blanked out’. He abandoned school and took up petty thieving until he was picked up by police, charged and ended up in a juvenile detention centre in Sydney. It was his first experience of a lockup and he was terrified.

Alan was treated for severe scabies in the detention centre. A staff member applied cream to his body to treat it, which stung him so much he cried. It was when Alan was washing it off in the shower that the officer fondled his genitals. ‘I tried to push him off but … I was terrified.’

The abuse left Alan wondering for years if he was gay. ‘I questioned my sexuality, I done a lot of things. Because at the time it was happening, I tried not to get aroused but I did. And it was fucked. I didn’t know if I was gay, I didn’t know if I was straight.’

He was eventually sent home again and clashes with his brother started up again. One night an accusation was made, and again things got very violent. Alan ended up back on the streets, got involved in drugs, and it’s ‘been downhill ever since’.

Alan ended up in another detention centre, where he was physically abused. The same violence featured at the next centre that Alan was transferred to. And it was here that he was sexually abused again. Abuse was commonplace there. ‘It was always the same officer. We’d get plucked, one of us’d get plucked and taken up to the gym … and just a similar thing. Just fondling, make us fondle him back.’

He eventually fought back. ‘I attacked staff ... It wasn’t going to happen again, you know?’ If boys had issues with each other at this place, they were made to battle it out in a certain area. Sometimes the fights lasted for half an hour.

Alan said he was extroverted as a child. But once he was locked up and experienced the sexual abuse, ‘I went really introverted … Pretty much shut myself down to everyone … I do it to this day. I talk to one or two people’.

He doesn’t enjoy the company of people. ‘I don’t know how to hold a conversation … I have serious trust issues, I know I do.’

Alan hasn’t been violent since he was a teenager, because he hasn’t needed that defence mechanism. He’s no longer embarrassed about the sexual abuse he suffered. He knows it’s something that needs to be dealt with and he’s frustrated that now he’s in prison, there’s no counselling service available to him.

He’s determined to get off the drugs. Alan did have a drug-free stretch for over a year when he was out of prison, so he knows what it feels like to live a normal life, and he wants that again.

He came to the Commission because he doesn’t want to see kids go through what he went through.

‘Because it has a lifelong impact, man, and it becomes a big contributing factor into substance abuse … It affects everyone.’

Alan strongly believes that kids in institutions should not be able ‘to go off one-on-one with a staffer’, and that there should always be two or more staffers with inmates.

He was on anti-anxiety medication for a while – he used to get bad panic attacks – but he stopped taking them. ‘I just deal with it the best I can. If it gets too much I’ll get back on meds.

‘I used to say to Mum and Dad, and people, that I’m damaged goods … And I want to stop saying it.’

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