Kelvin Timothy's story

Kelvin was first diagnosed with ADHD before his second birthday, in the mid-1970s. His parents did not want to have him medicated for this condition, but tried other treatments. He grew up with his family in the suburbs of Brisbane, and they experienced a lot of housing instability. He attended around 10 different schools, which he found especially disruptive because of his ADHD.

At high school, Kelvin began truanting and was involved in minor thefts. As a result he attended court, and was ordered to live in a Catholic boys’ home. When he first arrived there he was excited as it looked to him like a holiday camp, and he looked forward to having more stability.

Kelvin was housed with boys the same age, and fitted in fairly well. Most of the teachers and staff were De La Salle Brothers, with only a few lay staff. Some of the Brothers were aggressive and seemed ‘a bit weird’ to him. He was often physically assaulted by the Brothers, one beating him so viciously with a thick leather belt that ‘he nearly killed me with it’.

Two of the Brothers sexually abused him as well, as did some of the older boys when they could get him alone. These assaults happened many times over his two years at the home.

Kelvin ran away on several occasions, but nobody ever asked why, and he was never visited by a case worker. ‘I think I was hoping that someone would ask me, or know that something was going on ... All they did was just send me back.’

After his time at the home was done, he was returned to his family and soon began using drugs. When he was 15 he was sentenced to time in two juvenile detention facilities, and was physically abused in both. When he was released, his parents moved the family away to a different area, hoping to keep him out of trouble.

Kelvin has struggled with drug dependency all his life, particularly amphetamines (which he now realises may be a form of self-medicating his ADHD), and has spent a lot of time in custody for drug-related offences. He has ‘only ever had drug relationships’, and has not worked other than when his family has employed him.

As an adult, Kelvin was finally prescribed Ritalin for his ADHD, though the effectiveness of this was affected by his consistent use of illicit drugs. He has been through drug court twice, but relapsed immediately after completing it the last time.

The question of what compels Kelvin to use drugs is one that has never been adequately addressed, although he thinks it is an obvious sign that he has issues needing to be dealt with. ‘It’s funny, we use it as a mask but we’re not masking it at all. We’re just making it more obvious ... You’re not hiding it, ‘cause obviously anybody who’s doing something that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re actually saying that, I’ve got problems.’

Even when he has been in and out of court so often, he has avoided disclosing the sexual abuse during meetings with his lawyers or psychiatric evaluations. ‘You always sort of go around this, use something else as an excuse, you don’t talk about this ... I’ve twisted everything around, upside down. I’m a master at giving you any other story but the one that I should be saying.’

Recently, Kelvin became involved in a class action against the home. It was only when preparing his statement for this action that he first disclosed the sexual abuse. As part of this process he was assessed by a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He received a significant amount of compensation, a large portion of which he soon spent on drugs.

His parents remain supportive of him, and he has never told them about the sexual assaults. He does not want them to know in case they feel somehow guilty or responsible for his experiences.

Kelvin’s main focus now is on avoiding drugs when he gets out of prison again. He thinks that speaking about his experiences more might be beneficial. ‘I’m hoping that if I start talking about it I won’t need to go and use drugs ... I’ve just got this weird idea that that might happen.’

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