Dan’s parents separated when he was young, and his mother ‘met some bloke’, who was living in outback New South Wales.
In the mid-1970s, when he was about 15, Dan went to stay with his mother’s boyfriend for a short time. While he was there he was sexually abused by one of the boyfriend’s mates.
‘I didn’t say nothing to me mother or anything. I was just too embarrassed to say anything and when I got home … I went back to me mum’s place [and] I was just sort of on edge all the time. I was agitated and everything.’
Dan ran away from home and his mother found him hiding under the bed at a friend’s place. ‘It just escalated from then … I started drinking and using drugs to cope with my feelings and ended up … living on the streets and using more drugs and alcohol and breaking into homes to get money and food for [the] lifestyle I was living. I was totally confused at that stage of my life … and that’s how I ended up in [a juvenile detention centre].’
When Dan arrived at the detention centre he was scared. He was put into a dormitory, and it was there that he was sexually abused by two older boys. ‘One was a young dark fellow, and another white sort of fellow … I was held down and one of my attackers was trying to stick a toothbrush in my bum and the other one was trying to stick his penis in my mouth.’
During the assault an officer walked into the room. ‘He saw one of the attackers kneeling over me as my pants were pulled down. I yelled out to him as he saw me, but he did not come and help me. I felt really scared and emotional. I didn’t know what to do.’
Dan said, ‘I kept all my emotions built up inside of me and then I started to use more drugs as I got older and this addiction which I was trying to cope with just escalated and got out of control, as I have spent the last 30 years in prison since my family [passed] away, and my psychological pressure which was bottling up inside of me’.
The abuse Dan experienced as a teenager has had a huge impact on his adult life.
‘I would hate to see anybody going through the pain I have been through … Since being in prison I have experienced panic attacks and anxiety attacks and sleep disorder. I have been on lots of medication at night to sleep as I am always on edge and get very moody.’
Dan has nightmares and flashbacks if he doesn’t take his medication. ‘I still feel depressed and unwanted sometimes and I hate being around negative people whilst in prison. I get really agitated sometimes and I think to myself bad thoughts as I try to cope with my actions and past.’
Dan told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve never had someone like youse to talk to me, you know. I’ve bottled it up all me life. I’ve never … I was just too scared to talk to anybody about it … I’m glad I [have] spoken to the Royal Commission, as I had kept this secret all of my adult life, and told no one’.
Now that he has finally spoken about what happened to him, Dan would like to ‘be a mentor figure to talk about my past and share my story with younger people, so they don’t end up like what has happened to me’.