‘What went on back in the 70s and 80s both in the prison system and the youth training centres, was like a sport … it was a sport, and it was a sport that was condoned and was encouraged to a degree by people within administration and authority.
‘The youth training centre … took my life. It took my life away from me. I had no hope at having a normal life.’
Carl was made a ward of the state in Victoria in the mid-1970s. He was almost 15 years old and kept running away from his ‘chronically abusive’ mother. He was sent to a government-run youth training centre and placed in a dormitory with about 30 other boys about his own age. Within weeks he was being sexually abused by a number of staff.
‘There was a youth officer there who always used to work the night shift … he would come and open the dormitory [at night] and he’d call four boys out … We were forced to commit both oral and anal acts of sex. He did it on us and we did it on him.
‘So we’d be silent, he’d give us a packet of cigarettes … this went on for probably four months.’
Carl was moved to a different section within the centre and hoped the abuse would stop. It only got worse. Again, the abuse occurred at night. Boys would be called out and taken to a shower block. The boys were told that unless they performed sexual acts with the men they would be sent to isolation. The abuse was extensive and frequently sexually sadistic.
‘It was a little roster that was set up, it sounds very crude but true, a roster that [meant] one Monday of one week I’d have to do it, probably Monday and Thursday [with other boys on other days] … It was like they were running their own brothel … [It] went on for months.’
Carl was aware that not all the boys were treated in this way.
‘It didn’t happen to people who could fight or [were] in for assaults. It only happened to people who couldn’t fight or were timid … I was one of those.’
He didn’t report the abuse because of threats of violence and further sexual punishments, although he knew that other staff knew the abuse was occurring.
‘They tried to get us to talk to the psychologist. Well, the psychologist was just as bad as the perpetrators because they used to go [to] the perpetrators and tell them [boys had spoken up] … These kids would get bashed by other kids on instruction from [the perpetrators] … bashed senseless … No one talked about this abuse. No one.’
At this time, he would often be released on weekend leave into his mother’s care ‘which I didn’t want’. He’d run away and be put back into the centre. In this section, the abuse continued for nine months.
As Carl grew older he was transferred to a number of different sections of the centre and then to a separate hostel. Sexual abuse occurred in each place. He had no support within the juvenile justice system and none outside.
‘When you ran away … whether it be from home or [the] hostel, to survive, you just did what you were used to doing … you solicited yourself.’
Carl was raped by a man when he was working as a prostitute and reported it to police. Police pressed charges and the man was convicted of his crime. In conversation with police, Carl revealed some of his sexual abuse in the youth centre and hostel but nothing was followed up.
Carl spent over five years moving in and out of youth training centres, hostels and, when he reached 18 years old, a youth justice centre. In all places he was sexually abused. At one stage he sought a transfer to escape.
‘The officer said, “I know why [you want a transfer] because you’re being bastardised … are you prepared to talk to me?” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. That’s how it was.’
At 20 years of age, when he was released from the state’s care, he received no support or assistance.
‘You were given whatever money you [had] earned … “Thanks for coming, have a nice day”.’
Carl was soon in adult prison. His teenage years of abuse made him vulnerable to attack. On his first day in prison he met one of the boys who had abused and beaten him in the centres. The boy, now man, told others of Carl’s abuse and, as a result, Carl was viciously raped and beaten by a group of inmates.
‘I do believe that it [the abuse] played a part in my subconscious mind set … only because you want to be a better person than what you think you were because the way you were treated – you eventually believe that that’s way you should be treated … You’re just a worthless piece of excrement.’
Carl has had a number of nervous breakdowns in prison and lives with pain from injuries sustained during the extreme and extensive abuse he experienced. He has only very recently begun to talk about his early life, encouraged by a judge who was setting a sentence for a conviction.
‘[The judge] encouraged me to talk about what I’d been through … she gave me… the inspiration and encouragement to say something. She was … the first judge to have shown that consideration.’
He is now considering seeking compensation and pursuing his abusers through the criminal justice system.
‘I was raped … mentally, physically, emotionally and psychologically for life … It completely stripped me of any innocence as a child. Not only did I cop chronic abuse from my mother, but then I went to an institution that was supposed to protect you and copped it even worse.
‘I had my life taken away from me … I did not seek in any way, shape or form or did I solicit in any way, shape or form [the abuse] … and if my quality of life can be improved by making a claim for compensation … I believe I’m entitled to it.'
‘If I was going to do it [report his abusers to the police], it won’t be while I’m incarcerated.’
Carl is determined to remain outside prison when he is released in a few months.
‘This is the final prison sentence for me. I have to close this … stuff. It’s a bit like being on one side of the gates and then walking through the gates and you’re in another life. Now, that’s exactly what I decided had to happen and is going to happen.’
He worries though that the ‘torture, bastardry and intimidation, not to mention bribery and threats of punishments far beyond what any court could impose’, that he experienced continues in the juvenile justice system today.
‘This sort of stuff is going on today but it’s just better covered up.’