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Brendan Arthur's story

Brendan grew up in the 1970s, moving frequently between his grandparents’ farm and various outer suburbs of Sydney. His parents were divorced, and with his mother working long hours, he took on much of the responsibility for the household chores. When he was 11, his mother re-married and his role in the household changed, which he found difficult to accept.

Brendan told the Commissioner ‘I’ve always been impulsive … do anything for a thrill’ and this behaviour led to a number of brain injuries when he was young. He rarely went to school and was often in trouble for shoplifting.

At 13, Brendan was sent to a youth detention centre for being ‘an uncontrollable runaway’. On and off he spent five years there. One of his relatives, Darryl, was only 18 months older than Brendan and as kids they used to get into a lot of trouble together. When they were caught, the police ‘used to send me to these places to try and teach me a lesson, but they never did’.

Brendan and Darryl were put into the youth detention centre at the same time and shared a cell. Brendan was unaware at that time that Darryl had sexually abused one of their young female relatives. In their cell, Darryl ‘started doing the things … like touching me and everything else and that … It’s just bringing back bad memories … and making me do stuff to him … and then he just kept going on like that for a little while’ before the abuse escalated to anal penetration.

Darryl was much bigger than Brendan and very threatening. ‘Very, how can I say … violent … “You don’t do it, you’re dead” type thing’. Brendan never told anybody about the abuse at the time. ‘Maybe being able to tell somebody would have been better, but who do you tell?’ Because the abuser was a relative, he felt he couldn’t tell other members of his family.

Brendan and Darryl were in the detention centre for about six months and the abuse went on the whole time. Once out, Darryl still pursued Brendan, threatening ‘like, “If you don’t do this, I’ll …”’ This went on for four or five years, until Brendan was 19. It only stopped when Brendan went travelling and had no contact with his family for five years.

Since his 20s, Brendan has been in and out of court, and he is currently serving time in prison for a crime he doesn’t remember committing. The first time he told anybody about the abuse was at the court hearing for this crime, when he was being examined by a psychiatrist. ‘Nobody knew until I told the psychiatrist that was examining me.’ The psychiatrist diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a number of other serious mental disorders, requiring high doses of anti-psychotic medication.

Brendan never reported the abuse to the police and doesn’t want to. Darryl has never acknowledged what he did to Brendan, and Brendan has never confronted him about it. ‘I’ve wanted to, but I thought, “Nuh. I’ll let sleeping dogs lie. I’ll leave it where it is”.’

During one of his prison stays, Brendan took a short course in Christian studies, and says that he has forgiven Darryl. He believes that Darryl has had ‘enough drama in his life’ and that God has already punished him for what he did.

Looking back, Brendan thinks it is possible that Darryl himself was abused as a child, because he discovered later in life that his grandfather abused one of their female relatives. ‘So I don’t know whether it’s … I’ve come … through reading books and that, I’ve become aware that it’s … most of it, not all of it, is a learned behaviour.’

Brendan told the Commissioner that ‘I try to keep it out of my memories … there’s times when it still comes up’. He cannot make any sense of what happened to him, and doesn’t know if anything could have been done to prevent it. ‘Family member, you know. You trust your family.’

Brendan told the Commissioner that the abuse ‘disturbed my life quite regularly … I never trusted anybody for a very long time’.

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