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Guy Benjamin's story

Being sent to juvenile detention was ‘normal’ for a lot of kids Guy knew growing up. Although his family tried to get him to behave, he was always getting into trouble with his mates.

In the early 1990s, when Guy was 11 years old, he was sent to a detention centre in Brisbane. He was subjected to strip searches, during which the officers ridiculed him about his body, particularly the size of his penis. ‘They just laughed. I remember there was six of them ... They actually pointed at it, and said, “It’s not like the other ones, and it’s not as big”.’

He also suffered a lot of bashings in this centre, and witnessed rapes between the detainees.

A couple of years later, he was sent to a different centre. Again, the officers made fun of his ‘privates’ when conducting searches, and sexual abuse amongst the boys was common.

On a couple of excursions outside of the centre, which were granted for good behaviour, he was sexually abused by a staff member.

One of his younger cousins was in this facility too, and was raped by other inmates. ‘I didn’t witness the act, I witnessed the behaviour from my little cousin. He started being withdrawn, and he wouldn’t talk. I seen the mental state, but I was a kid myself.’

Guy’s cousin later hung himself at the centre, and he remembers another kid suicided there too. As far as he knows, these deaths were not investigated.

During his time there Guy had a sexual relationship with a female staff member. ‘Because it was a female, and because I was just getting a little bit of age, I thought it was like the big man sort of thing.’

Guy believes this officer was also having sex with other boys, and now realises this was sexual abuse. Even at the time, he was confused. ‘I remember I even asked that lady too, I said why you are doing this to me? I’m only a 13, 14-year-old kid.’

When Guy was 15 he ended up in a third juvenile detention facility. One of the officers there sexually abused him by touching his genitals. Sexual acts were again common between the boys, including rape. Later, in adult prison, Guy came across some of the same perpetrators, who had by then been convicted of sexual offences against children.

In all three juvenile institutions, physical and emotional abuse was common as well. Guy would try and stick up for the younger and more vulnerable detainees, and continues to look out for the underdog today. He would tell his mum about the violence when she visited, but not the sexual abuse.

Guy could read and write when he left detention, although his education otherwise was minimal. He has never had any paid employment. ‘I always blamed myself for it. I didn’t think it was because of what happened. I just thought I was just a screw loose.’

He credits his drug use ‘plain and simple’ with getting him through the tough times. ‘It plays with your head. And that’s when you use hard drugs.’

In the early 2000s Guy tried to tell a priest about some of the sexual abuse, during a drug rehabilitation course, as he wanted to ‘repent’. However, the priest did not appear very concerned or engaged with what he was telling him.

Although Guy stopped taking drugs, he did not stop offending, and ‘I just keep coming in and out of prison’. Now he has kids, he feels bad about being in jail so often. ‘I’m really beating myself up, because I know I have to be there for them ... But my head is all over the shop, and I feel ashamed sometimes.’

Guy’s ‘mental state’ is of great concern to him. He spoke to the Commissioner about feeling depressed, experiencing paranoia, and keeping to himself a lot.

Even many years ago, ‘I thought something might have been a bit crazy in my head. That’s why I wanted to find out my records, to see if there was something in there’. He still has never seen his detention files, and would like to do so to see what was written about him at the time.

More than anything else, the way the guards ridiculed and humiliated him about his penis continues to impact on Guy’s wellbeing. ‘I felt really shy and ashamed then, but now, it’s hard even getting naked in front of a female. This could really take someone to suicide, ‘cause if you can’t be comfortable around the opposite sex ... Then what’s the use of living? That’s what I used to think.’

This shame has impacted his relationships for a long time. ‘That stopped me from being in a normal relationship with a girl, because I think she might be cheating on me, because someone’s bigger or whatever.’

Guy has had some counselling, but has never spoken about the abuse in therapy. ‘I’m very good at blocking things out, or putting barriers up. And so I can put it in the back of my head.’ He would like to try therapy again, but in the meantime he tries to do what he can to help himself. ‘I always try to pat myself on the back, because all I got is myself. So I can be my own hero.’

 

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