Over the years, the abuse Doug experienced has ‘had a big impact on my behaviour. I haven’t been able to hold a proper relationship with my kids’ mother … All my kids, growing up, I stayed away from them until they were adults. Not been able to settle down in one place’. And because of problems with drugs and alcohol, Doug has been ‘coming to jail for crimes you don’t know if you’ve committed or not’.
In the early 1980s, Doug was made a ward of the state ‘because of problems in my home with my stepfather … bashing me all the time. They put me down as uncontrollable because I kept running away from it all’. When he was 13 or 14, he was sent to a youth training centre in Victoria. Over the next couple of years, Doug also spent time in two other institutions.
Doug ‘got treated pretty well’ at the training centre, ‘except for one youth worker who threatened me with a hammer, and still today I can’t remember why. He smashed that hammer down on the table, swung it round my head. I thought he was going to hit me with it. At the time it was very terrifying, because I didn’t know who to turn to'.
Doug told the Commissioner that one of his instructors at the centre began taking him to his home, where he sexually abused him. ‘He … stripped me down, rubbed me down in oil and then began to abuse me on his own premises.’
When Doug was moved to a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers, he experienced more sexual abuse.
‘I got raped by one of the older boys in the swimming pool and then Brother Ryan took me. [He] said I can’t tell anyone, and started taking us to swimming lessons, then started grooming me and started doing sexual stuff to me in the church.’
Brother Ryan abused Doug repeatedly and told him that ‘I can’t tell anyone because no one will believe me’. Doug told the Commissioner that he was also sexually abused by a youth worker, and witnessed another Brother in bed with one of the other boys in the home.
Doug had an uncle who was doing some work at the boys’ home at the time. ‘I told my uncle … He didn’t believe me … and he wouldn’t do anything or help me in any way. He just got in his vehicle and drove off.
‘At the end of the day, all I could do was run away from 'em, and all that did was get me into more trouble.’ No one ever asked Doug why he kept running away. ‘They just said I was uncontrollable.’
Doug told the Commissioner that two staff members were ‘very sensitive and at times of trauma, when I was suicidal and things like that, that spent a lot of time with me, but that was only two people out of 20 or 30 people, you know. The others didn’t care. I always felt very alone. No one spoke about it. The boys … knew it was going on, but we wouldn’t talk about it because we were told not to.'
Because he was deemed uncontrollable, Doug was sent to a juvenile justice centre, where his roommate was sexually assaulted by one of the youth workers and ‘hung himself in front of me. He was too heavy for me to lift down’.
Doug told the Commissioner that he finds it hard to trust people.
‘Over the years you’ve tried to get close to someone and all they do is just either hurt you or … it’s like getting a counsellor, for example. Those counsellors aren’t there forever. They’re only there for three or four months … then you’ve got to repeat and tell your story again. And it’s history that repeats itself all the time, re-traumatises.’
When Doug told his parents and his brother about the abuse a few years ago, they were supportive. ‘They were upset by the whole thing and then decided to support me in any way they can.’ He believes that once he gets out of jail this time, with the help of his family and the support service, Open Place, he will be okay.
‘I’ve had my ups and downs, and I’ve had days where I’ve tried hanging myself. Three years ago I tried hanging myself. Two officers here walked in on me … I’d had enough but they talked me out of it and I just think, "I’ve got kids and that there now, and there’s a reason to stay alive because of them and that".’