Baxter's story

Baxter says he’s a strong believer that everyone is born innocent. But the world he was brought into has thrown a lot of difficulty his way.

He was born in the late 1980s to a teenage single mother who struggled to look after him. At the age of two, after living on the streets of Sydney with his mother and her boyfriend, he was admitted to hospital in a seriously ill condition. His grandfather came to collect him and this was the last time he had much to do with his mother.

When he was about nine, a male friend of his grandfather’s came to live with them and sexually abused Baxter over a period of time. He described the abuse as horrific and said that although he didn’t understand what was happening, he blamed himself.

‘I’ve tried to supress these feelings as much as I could and that’s been hurting me.’

Baxter started getting into trouble, and at age 10 he was arrested and made a ward of the state. He was sent to a youth detention centre in Queensland which, he said, was an extremely tough environment. Other inmates and officers were verbally abusive towards him, and he was frequently physically abused, placed in isolation or stripped.

‘I ended up at the point where I started developing at such a young age, I’d "bronze up", which is like defecating and rubbing faeces all over my body, and things like that because that’s how I felt deep inside.’

He said the memories of that time are very dark and he still suffers deeply from them.

After this he was placed in care in Queensland where he was abused by his foster father. ‘He used to try and put like sexual advances towards me. I just feel my skin crawling now just reliving it … He’d come in, try to kiss me, and try and do these things to me.’

When he was about 13, Baxter was sent to a Catholic home in Queensland where he was sexually abused by older boys and adult carers, including being forced to participate in oral sex and masturbation. The boys stayed in cottages, looked after by a cottage ‘mum and dad’. He was raped by his cottage dad as ‘punishment’ after being caught smoking. This was one of many times his cottage dad raped him.

At one point a staff member saw him being abused by one of the older boys and got him out of the room to stop it happening. But no further action was taken.

Later, at a youth detention centre in Brisbane, Baxter was subjected to sexual abuse by other inmates as well as some of the youth workers.

All of this has left Baxter very distressed and struggling emotionally.

‘When impacts happen on a child, and a child suffers immensely from adverse effects and the absence of others … the child grows up, and they don’t believe what other people say to them, they’ve got real bad trust issues. It’s hard for them to believe and build a relationship with someone, even as simple as a friend.

‘I find with myself, when someone does something as simple as show me a smile or show me that they care about me, all of a sudden I start feeling like this little bit of hope in my heart. And I’ve been really devastated …

‘That’s the saddest thing about it because not only have I had to deal with it as a kid, I’ve also had to deal with things throughout my whole life.’

Baxter struggled to find employment and turned to drugs to block out the memories, and as a result has spent most of his adult life in prison.

‘I’m really institutionalised and that’s one of the biggest factors I’m scared of. That’s what I’ve been trying to put through the people in here – that I’ve only got four months left until my full time and I want to wash my hands of the system. I don’t want to come back into an institution again. I want to get out of here.’

As a result of engaging with the Royal Commission, Baxter is hoping to access counselling to help him deal with his past and find better pathways in the future. In the meantime, he writes poetry and songs, and this brings him peace of mind. He also maintains a very strong Christian faith and reading the Bible every day brings him comfort.

‘I’m a disciple of Christ and I use that as a form of healing. I’m a strong believer that He watches over me and he protects me and he keeps me safe …

‘It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but because I’ve gone into Christianity I sort of feel like a protection around me now, like God’s got an arm around me.’

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