‘I was very confused about my sexuality. What happened to me totally confused me and after I left the boys’ home I was a different person, and it just – I don’t know how to explain it – but it totally confused me. And I ended up just having a sex change, which today I don’t think was probably a good idea. I should have dealt with this a long time ago, but I couldn’t face it. I was just very confused with my sexuality and all that after being in there and all the things that were happening in there.’
Lexi was 16 when she was sent to a New South Wales boys’ home in the late 1960s. The home also functioned as a juvenile justice centre and contained a mixture of residents, some of whom had been charged with violent crimes. Lexi was in the home after being charged with ‘vagrancy’.
In the nearly two years she was in the home, Lexi was repeatedly made to ‘do sexual stuff’ with other residents.
‘I was just in shock, I was so disgusted and I just couldn’t believe it, what was going on. And not only was the kids doing this to me, and I was too scared to not do what they wanted, but so was some of the screws. They were saying, “Would you like to come out for the day?” and I’d do anything to get out of there ’cause I was locked in there with them. And I’d say, “Yes” and then they’d want me to touch them up and stuff. This is the people in charge.’
Lexi told the Commissioner she thought her appearance and manner – that of ‘a little girl’ – made her more susceptible to being abused.
‘I didn’t have a hair on my body because I was a late maturer’, she said. ‘And I looked very feminine. I suppose that was probably one of the problems I had. And I was really quite naive you know; I didn’t realise until I was in there. And I was so scared.’
Part of Lexi’s fear came from the bashings meted out by both boys and staff. ‘Kangaroo courts’ were overseen by a supervisor and boys were freely permitted to inflict punishment on others. Lexi recalled one boy being ‘bashed so bad they pushed him under the bed because they thought he was dead’ and another who had to be resuscitated after he stopped breathing as a result of being beaten.
‘I was just scared for my life you know, absolutely scared. And so whenever they tried to do anything with me, I was too scared to object you know. It was really hard. I was terrified the whole time.’
Throughout the time she was there, Lexi ‘wrote letter after letter’ to her parents asking them to get her out, but they refused. Because good behaviour was rewarded with privileges and ‘credits’, including being moved to a cottage that wasn’t locked, she was always well-behaved. Despite this, she was never offered the option of moving and when she asked why, a guard told her that she ‘wouldn’t be safe there with the other boys’. This confirmed her belief that guards knew that she was being sexually abused.
Lexi said ‘the whole thing was a nightmare’ and described herself as a ‘different person’ when she got out of the home. ‘I’ve been depressed all my life since that – that’s how badly it affects you. I’ve suffered depression since the home, and after I got out of that home I went really weird. I went a bit sort of weird sexually, kinky-wise you know and all this, and didn’t know what I wanted. And it was just really strange, the whole thing was. I was so confused.
‘Immediately after I left the boys’ home, I started streaking. I was doing streaking and stuff, I was just so mixed up. I was just absolutely confused you know and I sort of went – you know I turned into gay I suppose or bisexual or something, and it was really weird because I was so in shock when I was [in the home], I hated it so bad and I was so scared, in the end it was almost like exciting or something.’
Lexi didn’t talk about what had happened in the home for a long time. She couldn’t recall when she’d first disclosed the abuse and had ‘sort of mentioned things a couple of times over the years, but not much’.
‘It was almost like I didn’t want to acknowledge it any more you know, and almost like I’d blocked right out of my mind, the whole thing.’
She has never sought compensation and although over the years she thought of reporting the abuse to NSW Police, she’s always ‘put it off’.
‘The thing that used to always worry me when I had thought about it was having to go through it all again, and I couldn’t bear it. I just couldn’t bear it, going through it all, talking all about it and just getting so upset you know. It was just too real you know. And now – it’s been a long, long time – it still is really hard. It still upsets me.’
She’s had counselling at various times but found talking about the abuse usually led to ‘a deep depression every time’. Spiritual faith is what now sustains her.
‘I’ve never really got through it. I’ve never really got over it and to be honest with you I’ve attempted suicide a few times. I blocked it all out for a lot of years by smoking marijuana, which I don’t touch now. I don’t touch anything, any drugs at all. And I am a Christian now and I pray to God and I try to help other people where I can …
‘We might need to live many lives and we need to go through lots of things ’cause if things don’t happen to you in your life – and bad things or whatever – then you don’t learn compassion for others. You don’t learn. You know like, I’ve had horrible things happen and because of that I can have empathy for others that go through these things. I said, “God, please give me compassion” you know. And now I’ve got too much.’