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Jude Blake's story

Jude grew up in an Aboriginal community in regional Queensland. Both his parents worked, and both drank heavily. He witnessed a lot of alcohol-fuelled violence between them when he was young. He and siblings would sometimes go and stay with relatives to avoid it, or would be sent to a children’s shelter. When he was around seven years old he experienced sexual abuse in the family home.

At the age of 12, Jude started getting into trouble for stealing cars, vandalism, and committing break and enters. A couple of years later he was sent to a youth detention centre for two months for property offences. At the centre he was sexually abused by a guard he only knew as Mack. This abuse usually happened in the showers or at times when all the boys had to stay in their cells to be counted. Other boys were abused too, but Jude thinks he was particularly picked on because he was a small child. ‘I think he just targeted the weak.’

Mack was physically violent before and after sexually abusing Jude. ‘He pushed me over numerous times, and he’d cover up with a story’, telling Jude to stop walking into walls. He would threaten further violence should Mack disclose the abuse. ‘He said things ... “Whatever happens in here, stays in here, no-one should know anything”. Because if I said something, no-one would believe me.’

After leaving the centre Jude was placed in another juvenile detention facility for a few weeks, and was physically and sexually abused by older boys there – ‘it [sexual abuse] just sort of followed me’.

Following these instances of abuse Jude’s own offending became more violent, and he has been in and out of prison most of his adult life. Much of his offending has related to relationship violence against partners, and he believes witnessing such violence in his childhood has influenced this.

Jude told the Commissioner that he often felt ‘that all the stuff that happened to me made me less of a man’. Because of this he felt unable to speak to his partners about the abuse, for fear of being labelled homosexual. ‘I think about all the failed relationships ... I still to this day don’t know where I fit in life.’

Although Jude has not engaged with any counsellors or psychologists, he has completed several programs in prison. These courses ‘talk about the cycle of life, stuff like that. The violence, the drugs, the alcohol’, to try and prepare inmates for life back in the community. Making artwork has also been a significant source of resilience.

Before speaking to the Royal Commission, Jude felt ‘I never really had the chance to tell anyone about what went on back then’. Having finally started talking about the abuse, he considers he may be able to tell his current partner. He also thinks maybe some counselling could help – ‘I could at least give it a try’.

Jude suggested that children in juvenile detention facilities should have a monthly program of external visitors, and should be made aware that it was safe to report any sexual abuse.

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