The main male role model in Fletcher’s early life was his heavy-drinking grandfather. His mum was ‘a pharmaceutical junkie’ who took a lot of pills. Home was a violent place.
‘We were always bashing each other, somebody was always getting bashed in the family ... I wasn’t really happy. I never really had a lot of friends, never really invited people back to the house ... There was none of this “come to my place for a sleepover” or anything like this. Once the door was shut, what went on inside the house went on inside the house. Nobody else in the street knew what was going on.’
Fletcher started getting into trouble for stealing cars and shoplifting when he was around 13. He was hanging around older kids who were already committing crimes.
‘I never seemed to fit in with anyone, even my own family. I still don’t to a large extent.’
In the early 1980s he was sent to a youth training centre in Melbourne. He spent a great deal of the next few years there.
Jimmy Wilkins was a youth worker at the centre. He had a comb-over, a Kombi van, ‘and a taste for young boys ... The job he was in was the perfect smorgasbord’. Wilkins began sexually abusing Fletcher soon after his first admission, and ‘was really arrogant, almost like he had a right ... Like we were just pieces of fucking meat and we’d do as we were told’.
This abuse began with Wilkins approaching and fondling Fletcher while he showered. It progressed to Wilkins performing oral sex on Fletcher, and expecting Fletcher to do the same to him. Wilkins also anally raped him.
The officer also used other inmates to threaten Fletcher, and was probably abusing them too. ‘In that kind of situation you can buy a lot for a couple of cigarettes, or a chocolate or a can of Coke ... He had some kids that he used to use to intimidate you ... He used the threat of them, he’d say, “If you don’t do as you’re told I’ll tell everyone that you’ve been sucking my dick” ... I’ve got no doubt he was doing it to other kids ... There were stories around the boys’ home that he’d been doing it for a long, long time.’
Fletcher was further abused by other staff and fellow inmates during subsequent admissions to the centre. He was small for his age, and an easy target.
‘It’s almost as if once a kid’s been molested ... It’s almost like you give off a signal or a scent or something to these predators. They just seem to be able to pick you out of a crowd.’
At 17 Fletcher was sent to an adult prison where he was again sexually abused by other inmates. ‘People that knew I’d been in boys’ homes, and knew what had happened. It wasn’t until I started to learn to stand up for myself and stab people and hurt people violently that the sexual abuse stopped.’
Fletcher never disclosed these incidents to anyone. Since he was first placed in detention he has spent more time incarcerated than he has in the community. He has significant problems with alcohol and drug use, and is currently prescribed methadone. ‘Just drink and get high, and self-medicate that way ... Drink and drugs is what I do.’
The abuse caused Fletcher trouble in maintaining healthy relationships. He was with one partner for over a decade, though for much of the time he was in jail. When he was with her, he could not share a bed with her. On the one occasion that they did try sleeping together, she brushed against him while they slept and he automatically grabbed her throat to protect himself. He never considered having children as he feared becoming a perpetrator.
Fletcher finds many words and smells trigger him, and he barely sleeps. While he has previously attempted to engage with support in prison, he has now given up. ‘You try to tell people here, these healthcare providers here, and they hear it a hundred times a day, they don’t give a fuck, they’re pretty much bulletproof. And you start to tell them, and I mean I’ve seen psychiatrists, I’ve seen psychologists, but it got to the point where it was almost like once every six weeks I had to explain myself to a new person. And I just got to the point, went oh fuck it, these people don’t care enough.’
As he gets older the memories of the abuse are ‘increasing. They say these things get better ... It doesn’t. It’s just getting worse and worse. I’m at the point now where I’m in a fucking jail cell, and I’m in jail with another bloke, and I don’t sleep much during the night. He moves, I jump up ... I’m watching him because if he comes near me I’ve got a razor blade and I’m going to cut his fucking throat’. Fletcher keeps himself ‘armed up’ with whatever he can find, and is worried he will hurt someone badly.
When Fletcher gets out of jail this time he does not have anywhere to stay.
‘I’m homeless now ... I tend to be very comfortable living like that. It may sounds strange, but I don’t want to live in a house and I don’t want to be normal. I don’t understand what it is to be normal.’