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Irvin James's story

The sexual abuse Irvin experienced as a child ‘taught me that I had to fight a lot of people to stop it from happening and it didn’t even stop it from happening’.

When he was young Irvin was very close to his grandmother. She died when he was nine years old but his parents lied to him about her death. He didn’t know how to take her disappearance so he acted out. This led him to be placed in foster care as his parents didn’t know how to handle his behaviour.

In the late 1980s, Irvin spent two years being moved between different foster homes. He stole money and ran away several times because he just wanted to return to his family. However, when he was 11 he was sent to a remand centre in New South Wales.

‘I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be at home.’

Irvin remembers being at the centre as the worst time of his life. He was bashed by the older boys because he was the ‘runt of the litter’ and they didn’t let him forget his place. He was forced to fight other boys while he was naked in the showers. The staff were always watching and gave permission for older boys to bash him.

On one occasion an officer’s wallet went missing and Irvin was reported as the thief by one of the boys. He was taken to a room and bashed by several other boys and they put his face into a fan. The officer then grabbed a broom and shoved the handle up Irvin’s anus.

‘I still have problems going to the toilet now.’

The officers sent Irvin back to his room and he sat down and cried. He didn’t know who to turn to because the officers were just as bad as the boys. The officers were watching the abuse, not stopping it. He was never visited by his social worker.

Irvin knew that no one would believe him about the abuse so he self-harmed and attempted to end his life.

When he was 16 he was released from the centre. He moved back home and started using drugs to try and forget the memories. He committed criminal offences to support his drug habit and was an angry young adult who often looked for fights.

Irvin has spent a significant part of his life in custody for his crimes throughout his late teens and adulthood. He still experiences severe flashbacks of the abuse, which affect his sleeping patterns. It is difficult for him to trust others, and he is uncomfortable with medical procedures.

At the time of his private session, Irvin was in custody for his most recent offence. His first disclosure was to the Royal Commission and he had spoken to a lawyer about obtaining his records. Irvin wanted his story heard and believed and he wants children to be well protected.

‘I want things to change, I really want it dealt with.’

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