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Darryl Brendan's story

‘It breaks my heart what those people did to me ... I just thought that was my life. Because everywhere I was going, I was getting abused.’

Both of Darryl’s parents drank heavily, and neglected him and his siblings. The kids were taken into state care in the mid-1970s, when he was around eight years old. Prior to this, he had been sexually abused by one of his father’s brothers.

Darryl was in and out of various residential facilities, and frequently sexually assaulted in these institutions. At a government-run home in Melbourne a female staff member would place Darryl on her lap and play with his penis, forcing him to fondle her breasts.

Older girls living there would demand he showed them his genitals, and show him theirs. ‘It was just all strange to me. Being so young, I knew nothing about sex.’

At the next place, a Protestant orphanage, he was sexually abused by Johnny, the bus driver. Johnny tried to anally and orally rape Darryl several times, becoming violent when Darryl resisted. He still carries physical injuries from Johnny’s attacks.

A boy called Tom also sexually abused Darryl too, and Darryl was subjected to a great deal of physical violence from another staff member. Another boy would masturbate in front of Darryl, and try to make him reciprocate. As well ‘people used to come into the dormitory at night ... touching boys and that’.

From when he was around 10 years old, Darryl was sent to his family home periodically. His father’s brother, Mike, began sexually assaulting him. This continued for several years, whenever the opportunity arose.

Darryl tried to tell his mum about what Mike was doing, but she told him ‘not to be silly’. His dad was a violent man who often abused his mother, so he was too scared to disclose Mike’s abuse to him.

‘My mind back then was, if I can’t trust my family, who can I trust? I still believe that today.’

He is relieved to know that Mike is now deceased. ‘I feel that’s good. He’s not hurting anybody else now.’

For the next four years Darryl was placed in a Christian Brothers boys’ home in regional Victoria. The home would send Darryl out with foster families during the holidays, and he experienced sexual abuse from older teenage children in these placements.

On one occasion he was molested by a brother and sister. ‘It was just quite strange. And he’s making me touch her in places, she’s touching me, he’s touching his own sister you know.’

Darryl lived in constant fear of being assaulted, and began sniffing petrol and thinners ‘to escape’. After having a ‘bad moment’ on the thinners, he never touched them again.

As a child, Darryl didn’t really comprehend that other kids were being abused in these institutions too. ‘I had no idea. I just thought it was all me.’ He recalls ‘blaming myself a little bit. Was I too good-looking and that? ‘Cause I seen a photo of myself when I was younger, and I wasn’t an ugly kid. I shouldn’t think like that’.

He left state care when he was 14, and moved back with his family. ‘My mum and dad thought there was something wrong with me mentally, they really did.’ He was taken to a psychiatrist but wasn’t able to talk about the abuse, and was labelled ‘anti-social’. ‘They just had no idea what I’d been going through.’

Darryl remembers his ‘life was spiralling out of control – I could see it happening’. He ended up involved in crime, and spoke with the Commissioner from prison. He reported experiencing alcoholism, ‘deep depression’, nightmares, and flashbacks, and having attempted suicide a few times.

Although Darryl showed promise at school, his education suffered and he found it hard to maintain employment. ‘I really don’t know in a way, who I could have been if this didn’t happen to me.’

He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, isolates himself from others, and has struggled with trusting people and having relationships. ‘It’s so hard even to this day, getting close with somebody. I can’t even hold hands with a lady and walk down the street ... I can’t cuddle up and watch a movie with a lady. It felt so strange.’

Darryl never married or had children, and has lost contact with his family. He often wonders about the people who abused him – ‘these evil pricks, how can somebody do that?’ In his own instance being abused ‘has ripped my world apart’, and it saddens him to ‘know there’s a child right now being abused as we speak’.

It was not until very recently that Darryl reported some of the abuse he experienced to police. Detectives had contacted him regarding child sex offences at the orphanage, however they were investigating an offender who had not assaulted him. At this time he disclosed his own experiences of abuse, but has not heard anything since. He found that speaking with them about these matters ‘triggered off a lot of things’.

He feels very grateful to some of the prison officers who have helped him while he has been incarcerated. Listening to music is a great therapy for him, and he is currently learning an instrument.

‘It makes me a bit sad, some songs, ‘cause it brings back memories. But there’s a lot of songs that help me along. It’s like the people that are singing them have had some bad experiences themselves.’

Darryl is now represented by a lawyer regarding civil litigation against the government and individual institutions. ‘They’re trying to get me as much money as they can, compensation, and I’m like, well it’s not going to take away all me bad dreams and so forth, and the way I feel some days. It might be able to help me out with some things ... I’ve lost out on a lot of things through my life.’

It has been arranged for a counsellor, paid for by the Christian Brothers, to ‘come and help me out, hopefully to make things a lot easier, that I can manage a bit better you know’. Darryl ‘can’t wait’ for this to happen, so he can start dealing with his past.

‘It’s like the little boy is still inside of me ... I feel him in there, that’s he’s been hurt. But now, I can give him a chance to come out, and start living life.’

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