Darcy John's story

As a boy growing up in the mid-1940s in Brisbane, Darcy was curious about sex, or ‘the birds and the bees as they called it back then’. His mother had remarried when he was young and his stepfather was an alcoholic who physically abused her and Darcy. He didn’t like Darcy’s questioning and ‘every time I asked I more or less got shot down’.

As soon as he turned 14, Darcy left home to work on a farm. He was an active kid and loved doing the work. He continued to ask adults about sex ‘because I wanted to know and no one would tell me so I was more or less blind in the ways of life’.

The farmer only paid him in board and lodging, no money, so after about a year Darcy returned to the city to look for other work. His stepfather had calmed down, so he was also able to live at home. One day Darcy’s mother went into town, leaving him there alone.

‘The next door neighbour’s girl turned up and come in and she was actually naked … my parents were an older generation where you didn’t let your kids run around naked and you don’t get undressed in front of everybody or anything like this. That was my upbringing. When I see this young girl coming in I decided to explore, by having a look and everything.’

The girl, who was three years old, returned to her house crying. Darcy was arrested and charged with carnal knowledge with a girl under 12. After pleading guilty he was sentenced to 15 years and placed in an adult jail with older boys and young men.

‘I was in that jail for about a week and then they started playing tricks on me. I had to have a shower this day because they threw a bucket of rubbish all over me and I was in the shower and five of them come into the shower. They physically abused me, sexually abused me and after they finished with me they had a tennis bat in there which was made out of timber … they ended up sticking it up my rectum at the same time.’

Darcy was left bleeding and crying. He tried to tell the prison officers what had happened, but ‘they more or less laughed it off’.

Two days later he was moved to a psychiatric unit within the prison where he was sedated. He was seen by a psychiatrist once a month but said he was too scared to disclose the abuse. After a while they gave him a job caring for some of the more disturbed inmates in the unit – helping them shave and shower – and he stayed there for the next seven and a half years, on medication the whole time.

He never received treatment for the physical injuries he sustained and they continue to be a problem for him today. The emotional impact continues, too.

‘I’ve become a loner. I want to be by myself all the time. I was frightened of people, I didn’t like talking to people.’

When Darcy got out of the psychiatric unit he tried to improve his education by doing courses and learning trades. When he was released he found work and started to build up his life. However, in the mid-1970s he was convicted of a serious offence and sent back to prison, where he’s been ever since.

Over the years he has seen numerous instances of sexual abuse inside jail, including rape, but he said prison culture still forbids ‘dogging on’ other inmates.

Darcy has tried to block out his own experience as much as he can, and only thinks about it when he has to talk about it. He has done various rehabilitation programs and disclosed the abuse then, on one occasion finding himself bursting into tears. He said he understands the shame people feel after sexual abuse, and he thinks about the victim of his own crime.

‘Because it happened to me, I learned my lesson like that and said “Now I know how people feel”. I tried to show empathy and everything to the family … I even tried to write letters to the family to apologise to them but they didn’t want anything to do with me or anything like that, so the letters were sent back.’

Over the years Darcy has got off all medication, and given up smoking and drinking. He’s had counselling through prison programs which ‘started bringing me out of my own little dark pocket’.

‘When you see the ripple effect on how you hurt them, how you do something to one person affects other people, not only the victims but all their families and friends and everything like that, even financial, everything like this … it wasn’t until I did this program that I realised what victim empathy was. And it made me look back at how I felt when I was raped, then I realised what victim empathy was.’

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