Donnie's story

‘I believe my problems started off when I was schooling … going into these juvenile homes. Excuse my language but it’s fucked my life … I just wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.’

‘It’s affected my life so much … to the point where … many times I’ve I thought about killing myself … because of this … and it’s even affected my family.’

Donnie grew up in regional New South Wales in the 1980s. Although his father was ‘hard’ and ‘old school’, Donnie had a good childhood with ‘good memories’.

‘My mum and dad were really good. They supported everything.’ However, his older brothers started getting into trouble with the law and were sent into juvenile justice.

‘I remember being like, 11 or 12 … me standing by myself … ‘cause … all of us boys slept in one room … and just me by myself crying … I wanted my brothers.’

And to be with them, Donnie started ‘playing up’. He ‘did a few assaults. I stole a car. That’s why I ended up in juvenile justice, was to be with my brothers’.

At the age of 14, Donnie was sent to a juvenile justice centre in western Sydney. ‘They get you and put you in a holding cell. I can remember wrestling and fighting with them … and they strip you off naked. And they handcuff you from behind … one officer just sat there and watched.’ Donnie believes this officer watched out of ‘sexual interest’ and it happened a few times. He was also sexually abused by another prison officer. ‘[He] used to get me to touch him and stuff but he was weird … he, like, rewarded … when I get back to my cell there’d be, like, a lighter and cigarettes underneath my pillow … That happened twice.’

Donnie was transferred to a regional training centre. There he was abused by a female correctional officer in her 30s, who used to give him special privileges. Donnie didn’t report it. ‘Too embarrassing.’ However, she was later caught out in relation to other abuses.

‘I always felt guilty that I let that happen to me … I used to put this front on, after these things happened … and I was a “psycho” and all the rest of it, so that I’d portray I was someone that I wasn’t because I didn’t want anyone close to me … as a brick wall.’ He also had a problem with authority which ‘spiralled out of control’.

Donnie felt really ‘weirded out’ in terms of his sexuality. He was 18 or 19 before he had his first girlfriend which he feels was delayed because of those impacts.

When he was outside, Donnie continued to offend. Eventually he was sentenced. At one point he went interstate to be with his brothers and avoid criminal charges in New South Wales. However, he continued to offend there as well. He has spent his entire adult life in and out of jail.

Donnie hasn’t reported the abuse to anyone until very recently. Even his girlfriend doesn’t know. One reason he hasn’t spoken about it is due to his upbringing. His father used to say ‘you don’t talk about your problems to anyone. Everyone’s got enough problems of their own’. His father, who is unaware of the sexual abuse, now blames himself for the way his sons are, and he is on anti-depressants.

‘So sad, man … I’ve never spoken to anyone about it but, one thing I used to do and it used to make me feel better about it, is I used to write it down on a bit of paper and scrunch up that bit of paper and chuck it away so I got it off my chest … At times it becomes so overwhelming … You know how they did that Redress thing? I didn’t want to have anything to do with it because I didn’t want … people to know that this is what happened to me.’

When Donnie reflected on life after prison he said ‘I want to get this dealt with. This has been something that I’ve carried on, I don’t know how long it is, many, many years’.

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