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Johan's story

‘I ended up committing a rape charge. I regret it as an adult. I done a big long time out of it. But I done a sex offenders treatment program as well and I could not bring it up … I’ve carried this with me, telling myself that I’m a man.’

Johan’s parents separated due to his father’s violence, and Johan became the man of the house, looking after his mother, brother and sister. By the time Johan came to Australia in the late 1980s, when he was 15, he had already fathered a child.

One night he went to a party with some friends and a girlfriend. They got drinking and Johan had sex with the girl. They were both underage and the girl told her mother, who reported it to police, and Johan was charged with unlawful carnal knowledge.

He was sent on remand to a youth detention centre in Queensland, where he was initially placed in an isolation unit. A large, muscular guard told Johan they had to do a strip search.

‘He put his gloves on, he’s got me to squat over a mirror, he started saying I was gay, I was a pretty boy, I was gay, I was a faggot and the only reason I committed this crime was to try and prove my manhood.’

Later, when Johan was dressed and in another room by himself, the same guard came in and forcefully pushed his baton between Johan’s legs, saying ‘You’re a fag, you like this’.

After Johan joined the main population of boys, the guard was more friendly towards him and would give him and other boys cigarettes. However he also gave them porn and told the boys he wanted to see them ‘being active’ – to watch them masturbating – and threatened to put them ‘in the morgue’ if they didn’t cooperate.

He also continued to conduct random body searches on Johan, making him squat over a mirror to search him.

Johan never reported the abuse within the centre because of a fear of retribution. He told his mother and she advised him to tell his solicitor but when he did, the solicitor said no one had made those kind of complaints before and it went no further. However he did manage to get bail for Johan who left the centre after a few weeks.

After he left, Johan still did not report the abuse.

He told the Commissioner, ‘I was not going to be believed by the authority because I was a criminal and because I was charged with a sex crime I was not entitled to report it’.

He said he also felt that he deserved to be treated badly because of his status as a sex offender.

As an adult, Johan went on to be charged with and convicted for numerous crimes, some of them violent and many of them sex offences.

Johan’s private session with the Commissioner was the first time he had spoken about the abuse since he left the youth detention centre.

‘I’ve kept it all this time. I’ve put little things for myself to keep myself from feeling like shit. But doing what I did, now looking back in what I did in keeping myself safe and not talking about it and thinking I was doing the right thing, eventually it didn’t do the right thing.

‘I was called a fag, a poofter, pretty boys like me were gay. Those are the things that have kept me strong but those exact things are what made me commit a crime as well in some form … I’ve gone and committed that same trauma to somebody else.’

Johan decided against going through a redress scheme as he was an addict at the time and knew he would waste any compensation money on drugs or gambling. He is now clean and on his release from prison, he will return to live with his partner and their young daughter. He is extremely protective of his daughter and said it’s important to stop the cycle of abuse.

‘I do need counselling. Today is the first time I’ve dealt with it, I’m getting angry, I’ve got goosebumps.’

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