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Barrett's story

Barrett grew up in what he described as a rough area of Melbourne. He remembered being physically abused with rulers and straps in primary school for playing up, and was once taken to the local police station as a warning.

As they got older Barrett and his mates became fledgling criminals, stealing cars and breaking and entering. In his early teens, after running away from his parents, Barrett was put into a government-run boys’ home. Almost immediately he was befriended by a guard who soon began sexually abusing him.

At first the guard would find ways to be alone with Barrett, even coming to see him in solitary confinement. Later he’d take Barrett on day and overnight trips and abuse him in different places outside the boys’ home. Barrett remembered once being abused in the house the guard shared with his mother.

At other times the guard would be nice to Barrett, giving him cigarettes and packets of biscuits. A few years later he even gave Barrett a car. But the abuse would always start again.

When Barrett was released from the boys’ home he went back to live with his parents, then moved in with a friend. The guard found out where he was living and the abuse continued. Barrett was now 15.

He didn’t stay out of trouble long and was soon sent to a juvenile detention centre. Again the guard from the boys’ home found Barrett, and again the abuse went on, both inside and outside the centre. One time, when Barrett was at home on special leave, the guard turned up and told his mother he was Barrett’s parole officer.

The abuse continued for several more years until Barrett was released from juvenile detention. The guard again came to see him but Barrett had had enough and slapped the man across the face.

‘I was a bit older then. It’s funny, I could’ve pushed him away harder but it’s like they’ve still got this power over you, like they’re still the officer.’

‘I actually felt sorry for him. I gave him a backhander and he started crying.’

Barrett never saw the guard again.

In his 50s Barrett’s memories of the abuse became overwhelming and he decided to tell the police. He made a detailed statement and identified his abuser from a photograph, and the thing he most remembers is the officer saying, ‘Why do you keep crying all the time?’

Barrett realised the police had no interest in helping him and actually didn’t believe his statement. He’s still shocked at their response. ‘How would the police officers even think that you’d make something like that up?’

A couple of years ago Barrett received some compensation but found talking about the abuse hugely difficult and painful. And the money will never make up for what the guard did to him. The worst impact has been on his sexual identity.

‘I’ve never really loved anybody. My daughters I love, and my grandkids, but I’ve never really loved being close.’

‘He messed me up that much. I’m not attracted to men, yet I’ll have sex with them. I love women, but I can’t keep a relationship. I don’t kiss and it’s because of him. He always used to try and kiss me and I hated it.’

There are times, as Barrett gets older, when his memories of the abuse are even worse. ‘When I think it’s all gone it’s not. It comes back. Sometimes I still have nightmares about it.’

He also occasionally dreams about visiting his abuser’s grave. Barrett laughed, ‘So he’s dead but he’s still annoying me’.

Barrett is HIV positive but has been on medication for many years and described himself as ‘very healthy’. He’s still friends with his ex-wife and very close with his daughters, but has had trouble being around his grandsons. ‘Didn’t want to get too close, didn’t want them sitting on my knee, didn’t want to hold them.’

Barrett knows he needs help and is getting it. In his session with the Commissioner he said, ‘This is the least I’ve cried. So it’s getting better.’

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