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Arlen's story

‘I had a pretty rough upbringing. A bad life … I think because we were poor … I was sort of brought up in a way, really, if a need … being a need to eat, you know, then if it comes to it, if you have to steal, well … you steal like, the food to eat, not items to sell, you know.’

Arlen grew up in Western Australia in the 1980s and after he began committing petty crimes, he spent several periods of time in a juvenile justice centre, between the ages of 14 and 16.

The centre was ‘a violent place on both sides, from us as kids, and from the people who used to … the way they used to treat us when they’d try and stop an altercation … of course, they didn’t have to go to some of the extents of what they went to’.

Arlen told the Commissioner that ‘I was brought up in violence … till my father died’, so when he was at the juvenile justice centre he did not find the violence to be too much of a problem.

When the doctor at the juvenile detention centre began sexually abusing Arlen, he thought ‘it was one of these things where I thought it was the norm … I thought it wasn’t just me. I thought every prisoner undertook it’. It was only when Arlen was in his 20s and was laughing with his friends about things that went on at the centre and ‘I brought up what the doctor used to do’ that he was shocked to see that ‘no one else seemed to be laughing’.

Arlen was called to the doctor’s office a number of times for no apparent reason. During examinations, the doctor would touch Arlen’s penis and masturbate him. ‘The first time he done it, I jumped back … “What are you doing?” and he goes, “Oh, don’t worry … I’m just looking for a discharge … Just try and relax a little bit”. This happened … it might have been five or six [times] … I thought it’d become protocol, you know.’

Arlen told the Commissioner, ‘I suppose it’s just one of those things that … you knew it was wrong, but it was a doctor … I don’t know what happened to me with other things at [the juvenile detention centre] were right or wrong, because I don’t know what to this day, what still was right or wrong, you know. There probably could have been a dozen things …’

Arlen has concerns about young people currently being sent to institutions. ‘Who’s to say that these young people … know what’s right or wrong, even till this day and they go into … especially a doctor, someone who’s supposed to care for you … You don’t have to have trust in them, but you should at least know where you stand, ‘cause I don’t think they even know where they stand, you know.’ Arlen was never given the opportunity to consent to these medical examinations.

After he was released from the centre for the last time, Arlen went on to become an angry man, and has an extensive criminal history for which he has spent time in jail. He hasn’t had much support from family members, but when he had a child of his own, ‘it opened my eyes up a little bit, you know. This is more why I’m here today … I’d never like anything like this to happen to her’.

Arlen told the Commissioner that he doesn’t think an apology from his abuser would help. ‘I’d spit in his face. I hope he’s alive, because I think he needs to be brought to justice for what he’s done … I want to report it now.’ If he could face the doctor, Arlen would like to ask him, ‘What were you thinking? What were you trying to achieve? Why?’ If he could see his abuser’s reaction, ‘I think that would be quite satisfying’.

Arlen is worried about the time it could take for the police to investigate his case, because, ‘the longer it goes on, the more I think about it, think about it, think about it’. When he approached the Royal Commission, ‘I thought youse were the police. So I was quite happy when I rang up. I thought I could finally get this out now, you know. And then it wasn’t the police. I’m not saying that what youse doing isn’t anything … a good thing and that’.

Arlen hasn’t had counselling and doesn’t know if it would be of benefit to him. ‘It’s something that’s happened to me … It was so long ago. I don’t know what … you know, like, better just keep it suppressed … I don’t think it’s something that’s going to disappear in my memory now. It never did but … the closer I’ve gotten to trying to get it out … like it took me weeks and weeks [to contact the Royal Commission] … I just didn’t want to report it. I didn’t want to report it.’

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