‘From 11 to 16, you know, they were my carers, and they really ingrained … this walled scenario of living and I knew nothing but that after a while … That become comfortable to me.’
Elliott suffered physical abuse in his family home and was made a state ward of Victoria when he was 11 years old. He was placed in a government-run short term unit but rebelled and was moved to a larger centre in Melbourne.
Elliott found the centre to be ‘rife with sexual abuse’ that included daily strip searches.
‘You’d see little things happen … bribery with cigarettes, tucking you into bed, watching you showering. Little triggers would happen and it would open your mind to it … before that I was oblivious to it all.’
Elliott became aware of grooming techniques, and he experienced sexual abuse in the years he spent in the centre. When he was 13 years old he was fostered into the care of a single man who lived in a caravan at a caravan park.
‘That was to them acceptable ... He picked me up and drove me straight out there. First night in, he opens the fridge up and it’s just full of VB cans. He goes, “That’s what we live on”. I was only about 13.’
That first night Elliott was forced to drink beer and made to urinate out the caravan window.
‘I was little bit embarrassed but I was sort of trying to hide and do it [urinate] out the window. And he said, “Stop, I’ll get a camera and take photos.” And then I knew.
‘I was scared, you know. He was 35 and I’m only a little boy. He took photos … and it was just a nightmare from then on. I was there a few weeks.’
The man made threats and was physically violent towards Elliott if he didn’t do what the man wanted.
‘Nothing was off limits, you know, full penetration, the whole thing, over a few weeks.’
Elliott reported his abuse to child services but they didn’t believe him.
‘I felt so alone. I didn’t even want to tell them. I remember sitting in the room crying, telling them. And they just forced me to go back there that night … They gave me no option … I ended up running away after taking as much as I could take.’
He was picked up and placed in a juvenile justice centre. His abuser turned up at the front desk of the centre and wanted to see him.
‘I was real scared, didn’t want to see him.’
The workers at the centre asked Elliott why he was scared and he told them. They took him to the police in the city and Elliott was interviewed a number of times over a couple of weeks. The man was charged with child sexual abuse. Elliott doesn’t know if his abuser was convicted of these charges.
Elliott found the process of giving his statement to the police very difficult.
‘A centre worker would drive me in there. I’d go on tape and say it and then I’d be driven back … It was traumatising, really bad. I’d have to relive all that information and then come back and be stripsearched and put back into an institution when I hadn’t broken any laws.’
‘My institutionalisation started, I believe now, looking back, right early then … It’s setting the path to be institutionalised. The whole time it’s just affected me … jail became normal.’
Four years later, when Elliott was 17 years old, he was convicted of a drug-related crime and was placed in an adult prison. One day, his abuser walked into the same prison yard after being convicted of separate child sexual abuse charges.
‘He was going to attack me so I defended myself … I was 17 and he was still a grown man, you know.’
Prison staff moved Elliott’s abuser to a different section of the prison.
For Elliott, the fact that he did inform child services of the abuse and they sent him back to the man is tragic and distressing. He believes that all complaints made by children need to be investigated and that all staff and foster providers need to be rigorously screened.
‘He’s had all these other complaints and charges now but it doesn’t help my situation … At some stage people got to be held accountable.’
After many years outside of prison, Elliott is serving a sentence for minor offences. But drug abuse is in Elliott’s past and he has formed a new life and started a small business. While he finishes his sentence he is seeking counselling to address the effects of his sexual abuse.
‘I want to go for compensation obviously, but I’m not focused on that. I need the counselling. I can’t afford for it all the time. Some people need to be held accountable. I was only a kid and my innocence was taken away.’