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Benny Daniel's story

Benny was raised in a single parent family in western Sydney. He recalls being a ‘troublesome’ child, and that this was one of the reasons why his mother couldn’t go to work. When he met his father in his mid-teens they ‘didn’t get on well’. He did, however, have a close relationship with his grandparents, who he used to stay with ‘a fair bit’.

Benny ‘didn’t mind’ going to primary school, but when he started high school in the early 1980s he found it very hard to adjust to the ‘different atmosphere’. Within months his attendance dropped, and he started to go ‘in the wrong direction’.

A year or two later Benny was charged with criminal offences, and placed in a juvenile detention centre in western Sydney. He was detained in this and other centres numerous times during his teenage years. ‘I suppose they are what they are’, he said. ‘They’re not nice places, that’s for sure.’

Benny was sexually abused during one of his placements in the western Sydney facility. The night before going on a camp, Damian Hillier, a youth worker in his 40s, took Benny and some other boys to his caravan. No other workers were with them. ‘It was just him on his own.’

The abuse happened during the night. Benny said that he remembered ‘feeling real drugged up and that … I don’t remember much what happened that night, but the next morning … when I went to the toilet, I was pretty sore, and there was blood coming out, so I knew that there was something that had happened that night’.

The next day, Hillier ‘just went about his business like nothing had happened’.

Benny was ‘pretty ashamed’ and ‘didn’t know what to do’, so when he returned from the camp, he told no one. ‘I didn’t want to be made fun of for anything like that sort of thing happening, so I was pretty, how would you put it, in the shell about it.’

About a year later when he spoke to his mother about the abuse, she wanted to involve the police. However, Benny was ‘pretty adamant’ that he didn’t want to cause any conflict and didn’t want anybody to know.

Because Benny ‘just wanted to escape that sort of thing’, he turned to drugs, and developed a habit which he supported by committing a range of crimes which landed him in prison. He has been suicidal, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia which he believes was most probably a case of ‘drug induced psychosis’. He also developed a fear and distrust of men, and during his stints in prison he ‘used to get round like … I always had something to prove … to let people know to steer clear type thing’. He preferred the company of female friends, but had difficulty in his de facto relationships.

About 15 years ago, Benny made a second disclosure during a prison ‘psych evaluation’. He received counselling and support for his drug addiction, and for relapse prevention, but not for his experience of child sexual abuse. He has never reported Hillier to the police, nor sought any form of compensation.

Benny is out of prison, and feels that he has ‘snapped out of’ his old ways. Even though he is ‘struggling a bit’, he is ‘staying out of trouble, staying away from the drug scene’, and receiving ongoing support and treatment through a rehabilitation unit. He does not socialise very often, but he has some contact with his children, and is determined to stay clean and be there for his mother in her old age. ‘I’m surviving, I’m actually surviving.’

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