Lenny William's story

Lenny grew up in Queensland in the 70s and 80s, and spent his childhood living in women’s shelters with his mother and his siblings. His father was an abusive alcoholic. Lenny’s mother died in violent circumstances when he was eight, and he was placed under a care and control order.

Lenny told the Commissioner that he was very close to his grandmother and other family members, but he began to get into trouble at an early age ‘because I didn’t have a role model. I started thieving and stuff … money out of cars, thieving cars, taking them for joyrides and stuff’.

This landed Lenny in the first of three juvenile detention centres he lived in between the ages of 12 and 16. ‘There was a lot of fighting and that’ at this centre. ‘The staff were very harsh, and the boys would be locked in ‘the cells underneath … for days.’

After a couple of years, Lenny was sent to a second detention centre where one of the officers ‘put a chokehold’ on him. ‘I was dazed, sort of unconscious … and I was sexually assaulted’. After the assault, the officer ‘used to come up to the cell window all the time and just stare at me, intimidate me’. Both the boys and the girls at the centre were afraid of this officer.

About a year later, Lenny was sent to a third centre which was worse than the other two. ‘There was pitched battles’, he said. ‘And the officers used to bet.’

One day, an officer yelled at Lenny. When Lenny looked at him, the officer manhandled him and locked him up for a few days in solitary confinement where he was sexually assaulted.

‘They said if I said anything and that, I won’t get any visits and they’d bash me. They were like really violent … big farmers … they had big hands and they were tough… All of us were scared of them. I think it was tougher than … jail.’

There was ‘a lot of bullying’ at this third centre, and officers would come in and out of the showers, or stand at the doors watching.

The abuse Lenny experienced has led to issues with his self-esteem and with authority. ‘I struggle with trust. I turned to methamphetamines … sort of made me feel a bit more important and confident.’ Lenny began using methamphetamines in his teens.

Lenny now has serious mental health issues, but has been helped by prescription medication. However, he is currently in jail where he has been prescribed a different medication which is not working.

Lenny sometimes has flashbacks, and feels angry and ashamed about the abuse he experienced. He has seen a psychologist once or twice in jail, and would like to see him again. ‘I might have to put in another request.’

When Lenny was out on parole last year, he was doing well. He was involved in several programs, attended some men’s groups and he was seeing a drug and alcohol counsellor. However, a ‘missed an interview or something’ landed him back in jail for breaching parole.

Lenny has children and is trying to teach them about their Aboriginal culture. He worries about one of his children who is in a juvenile detention centre because he doesn’t want the things that happened to him, to happen to his child.

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