In the mid-1980s, Caleb saw his mother being unfaithful. His parents went through an acrimonious divorce, and he went to live with his father. ‘Because I found my mum with this other person when I was eight, we never had a relationship.’
Life with his father was ‘very easy … There were rules, but he wasn’t very strict’. However, Caleb’s father had spent his life in and out of prison, and when he went back to jail, Caleb went to live with his mother for a short while.
His mother’s new partner was ‘a bad alcoholic and a very violent one’. Caleb ran away from home and, at the age of 10, he was made a ward of the state.
For the next four years he spent time in and out of a boys’ reception centre in Victoria. ‘I’d run away a lot due to trying to get back with my father and stuff like that … He obviously wasn’t in prison that whole time, but because there was no order to say that I could live with him, I’d run off and live with him until I was … apprehended and taken back there.’
Caleb was physically and sexually abused by several staff members at the centre. ‘I remember one occasion, I’d done something … or didn’t do something, and I was picked up and put behind his back … my legs went this way, and my head went this way, nearly snapped in half … We never really got along prior to that, but that was … that always made me a bit timid and scared of him, and he could see that and I think he liked it.’
This man subjected Caleb to ‘all sorts of abuse’, including rape. ‘He was scary … I used to hear other boys crying and stuff like that’, but none of the boys ever spoke about the abuse. ‘The kids were too scared to say anything. They were like tamed animals.’
In later years, when Caleb has spoken to friends who were in the centre, they’ve asked him if he remembers the two abusers. ‘They’ve never told me about sexual abuse, but they have mentioned the violence and stuff, and I don’t need to hear them say about the sexual abuse because I can see it in their eyes when they mention their names … I can see it in their eyes that there’s fear.’
Caleb was also abused by a female officer. ‘Both sexual and violence. She was more … She liked to torture, I guess you’d call it. She was very sadistic.’ There was a third officer too, but ‘he wasn’t as bad as them two’.
Caleb recalls that there was a youth worker he talked to. ‘I used to tell him a little bit, but not the extent of it. I was always worried because I had nowhere else to go and they made it quite clear that I was going to be kept there. I was always worried that obviously it would get worse and I’d get hurt more.’ He was also worried that if he told his father, he might end up ‘taking it into his own hands … I didn’t want him to get into trouble’.
In his late teens, Caleb got involved in drugs and crime. ‘It’d range from violence to thefts and stuff like that. I was pretty angry growing up, I guess, so I don’t know … I’d lash out a lot … I’m fine now. I haven’t been on drugs for probably nearly two years now’. Caleb also completed an intensive violence program in jail which has helped with his anger issues.
Relationships have always been difficult for him. ‘I never trusted women growing up … which was I guess because of what happened when I was young, and because finding my mother with someone else didn’t help.’ He has had two long-term relationships, but ‘unfortunately, probably jail’s kept them relationships going, but at the same point, it’s ended ‘em’.
Although he has tried counselling in prison, Caleb feels as if he is ‘just another number in here … They don’t really seem very helpful’, so once he is released, he will seek help.
Caleb believes that there needs to be ‘more outside interest’ in institutions, because when he was at the reception centre, ‘you were locked in that little … whatever you call it … unit … and if they didn’t want anybody in from outside, they couldn’t get in … They ran the show. So I guess, more involvement from outside would probably help a great deal’.