Barnaby Neil's story

‘I’ve got out of jail … and I’ve started … seeing this girl … but she was a lot older than me. She was, like 32 and I was, like 21 and … it’s just strange, like… what I’ve been through … being abused by … older woman and stuff … I found it strange that I’ve like, you know, want to be with … someone that’s older than me … cause she knew, like, where she was going in life and this and that … I sort of, sort of wanted that … wanted her to … tell me what to do and … direct me … have that power over me … I was drawn to that sort of relationship. I don’t know why.’

Barnaby grew up in Adelaide in the 1980s with his Aboriginal mother and Irish father. He was surrounded by alcohol, drugs and violence. At six, some older boys introduced him to dope. At 10, Barnaby was stealing cars and breaking into shops ‘for fun’. At 11 he got into smoking heroin. At around 12 he was arrested for stealing a car and locked up. Barnaby found that experience frightening. ‘That was the start of it.’

Barnaby was taken to a government-run youth detention centre. He noticed that most of the abuse that occurred there was in the younger boys’ unit, where he was. ‘We’re not going to say anything.’

When Barnaby first arrived in the holding cells, the male staff stared at him as he showered, ‘looking at your privates and … looking at your bum.’

At a later stage, Barnaby was sharing a cell with another boy. The cell had no toilet and you had to ‘buzz up’ if you wanted to go. His cell mate buzzed up and was escorted by a staff member, Gabrielle, a woman in her 40s. When the boy returned, Barnaby noticed him just quietly sitting on his bed. When Barnaby asked him what was wrong the boy simply warned him against going to the toilet. Barnaby didn’t think a lot of it and eventually did buzz up.

Gabrielle went straight into the toilet block with Barnaby and told him to turn around and show her his dick. When he objected she locked the door and told him he wasn’t getting out until he did. ‘I started freaking out because there was, like, nobody else in there.’ Gabrielle told him ‘It’s all right. I do this for boys all the time’. Barnaby was confused and Gabrielle explained that she had sex with other boys. Again, Barnaby objected saying ‘No offence and that, but you’re, like … as old as me Mum’.

When Barnaby went back to his cell the other boy said the same happened to him. ‘I didn’t think much of it … ‘cause I was a boy, you know what I mean, and like, ‘cause she was a girl, I didn’t really … click on … I knew what she was and that … I know what paedophiles are and shit like that … I kept away from her… I thought, fuck man, she’s a creepy old bitch.’

Gabrielle preyed on Barnaby and on other boys. On different occasions she would grab him and fondle him. She ‘forced me to … do stuff to her’. In response to one of Barnaby’s objections, she asked him if he was gay. Barnaby was used to gay people, growing up, and said ‘What’s that got to do with anything? Even if I was gay, you shouldn’t be doing this shit.’ Gabrielle told him to shut his mouth or ‘you’ll find yourself in a lot of trouble’.

On one occasion Gabrielle abused Barnaby straight after he heard the news of a death in his family. He told her to go away. She told him to relax.

Some of the male staff were also abusive. One, in particular, used to watch Barnaby in the showers and through his cell window. He, too, asked Barnaby if he was gay. ‘He was just, like … trying the dirt, you know … play into that game.’

The staff were frequently violent and cruel towards the boys, which Barnaby thinks was more damaging than the sexual abuse. However, he did report the sexual abuse to a supervisor but wasn’t believed.

Gabrielle also used to abuse the older boys. ‘They were all bragging about it, sort of thing … it was sort of … looked upon as, like, it was all right because she was a woman.’

Barnaby has spent his life in and out of detention and jail. He says adult jail is ‘ten times better’ than youth detention. As a result of the abuse he experienced, he finds it hard to sleep. He gets flashbacks and is sometimes on ‘psych meds’. ‘Sometimes … for just no reason … it’ll just like, snap into my head … Fuck, why? Why would I just think of that? … All of a sudden, bang! … I just picture her … telling me to pull my pants down and she wants to, like, suck my dick and shit like that … spin me right out ... Next thing you know I’d be, like, looking in unit [prison] for drugs … to try and block this shit out of my head.’

‘I never really thought about how it, like, affected me … Because … when I’ve got out of jail … and get out of the boys’ homes … I’d just go back to, like, normal … you know, running amok and … using drugs … It’s only been … probably the last few years, really, that I’ve thought about it and I’ve thought “Fuck man, mate, that’s huge … that’s, like, messing me up. I’ve changed the way I think about people … I’ve change my view of the world … I don’t trust many people.’

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