Dermott grew up in Western Australia in a ‘good family … never drunk or smoked or used drugs. They looked after us … Poor family … [but] made sure we always had a roof and food and that and they sent us to school and stuff’.
In the early 1980s, a teenage boy was brought into the extended family, and this boy raped Dermott ‘heaps of times. Threatened me as a kid … The family trusted him and I don’t know who else he’s done it to … he could have done it to every one of us’. Dermott didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because ‘I was scared when I was young’. The abuse started when Dermott was only four or five.
Dermott told the Commissioner that the abuse stopped when ‘I started getting into trouble, getting kicked out of schools’. He started smoking dope and drinking ‘probably when I got kicked out of primary school and stuff. Started hanging around older fellas’ and ended up in a number of juvenile detention centres.
When he was 14, Dermott was sent to a very violent detention centre. ‘Some of the officers used to bash us boys and stuff, you know, rough handling us. We couldn’t really stick up for ourselves.’ Older boys would often sexually abuse the younger boys in the showers. ‘It happened to me …heaps.’ The guards knew, but they ‘didn’t really care, you know’.
Although Dermott had a caseworker he could have talked to, ‘the older fellas were threatening me, you know. I was there on my own … I was too scared. I didn’t know how to come out with stuff like that’. Dermott told the Commissioner, ‘I still find it hard to deal with. That’s why I’ve been in jail all my life and in juvenile jails. I still don’t know how to deal with it’.
Dermott suffers from depression and has attempted to take his own life many times. After going off the rails during primary school, he never learned to read or write. ‘I had to learn in jail. I’m still going to school now … I still don’t know how to understand some words, or spell, or …’
Dermott told his parents about the sexual abuse in his mid-20s, and this was the first time he had spoken to anyone about it. ‘I didn’t know how to talk to them about this stuff. I was always wanting to tell ‘em but … [then] I got stronger … I wanted to tell ‘em before something happened to them and they passed away, so they know … why everything went wrong in my life. Why I ended up in jail, in trouble and … trying to kill myself all the time.’
Dermott told the Commissioner, ‘I wanna see like so it doesn’t happen, what happened to us. For juveniles … when they go into them places, there’s gotta be people there can, you know, get the young fellas to be comfortable enough to talk to, so if they’re going through that stuff, they can come out with it and don’t be frightened, you know’.
Dermott believes that counselling could help children going through what he experienced. ‘You know, just to hear their little story and so they can let stuff out if they got something there they want to talk about.’ Although he has never had sexual abuse counselling in the past, he is now willing to seeking help.
Dermott told the Commissioner, ‘I want the government to pay for what happened to us young fellas there. Apology’s not going to sing for us, you know’.