‘Thirty-four years to come out … it took 34 years because of drug abuse.’
Dev was two years old when his family immigrated to Australia in the early 1970s. ‘I grew up very strict. I was maybe the black sheep of my family. I was only 14 when I ran away from home with my mates’, he said.
‘Mum and Dad couldn’t control me. Or, they could but then I’d just run again. Just hanging around with friends, I didn’t run because I wanted to be naughty. And they rang the police on me.’
Dev was classified as ‘uncontrollable’. He was sent to a remand centre in Sydney’s west, then on to a training school for boys near Gosford. It was here that he was sexually abused.
‘There was one guard there of a night, not two like they have in prison. That’s when it occurred. I’m sure he was an alcoholic, because I could smell the alcohol on his breath.’
On another occasion, Dev was grabbed and stripped naked by a gang of other inmates. ‘That was shocking. They were my age, but when you’ve got six, seven, eight, nine blokes.’
Not long after this he managed to escape from the training school and went home. But he couldn’t tell his parents about the sexual abuse. ‘I just couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say dirty things to my parents. I couldn’t tell my dad stuff like that. If I got bashed at school I couldn’t even tell him that. I’d hide the bruise.’
Even when he spoke to the Commissioner, Dev said he was relieved that he didn’t have to go into detail about the abuse.
He was only home for two weeks before his parents had the police return him to the training school. ‘When I ran away and went back I wanted to kill myself. Like, “I’m going to cop the same, or maybe worse”.’
But this time Dev was lucky. He was put into a different section and didn’t see the guard again.
Dev didn’t talk much about his adult life, except to say that he battled depression and experimented with drugs. Even when he got married and had children, the relationship broke down because of his increasingly serious substance use.
It wasn’t until he went to jail that Dev was finally able to kick his habit of more than three decades. ‘I needed more rehab than jail, but jail was rehab. I needed it. That year of prison woke me up … went to church, believe in God, and I forgive what happened … the man, I forgive him.’
Dev said the depression is still there, but he copes. And even though he has medication for it, he’s down from two tablets a night to perhaps one a month.
He’s also managed to repair the relationship with his ex-wife, the only person he’d ever told about the sexual abuse.
Dev recommended that, in juvenile justice institutions, guards should always work in pairs, never on their own. He also said that having shower facilities in cells rather than open areas would make a big difference.
And, after reading a pamphlet in prison about knowmore, the free legal service for abuse survivors, he believes there should be a dedicated helpline where inmates can safely report sexual assault.
When he spoke to the Commissioner, Dev was looking into making a claim for compensation. Even if nothing comes of it, he’s in a good place.
‘I want a new life. And I’m living happy. Never been happier.’