Nicholas was adopted as a baby. His adoptive parents were ‘good, hard-working people’ and when Nicholas began getting into trouble with the police as a young teenager, they thought that spending some time in a juvenile detention centre might be good for him.
Nicholas was sent to a detention centre in regional New South Wales in the late 1980s. Soon after he arrived, an officer said to him, ‘I notice that you don’t talk to many people here', and I said to him, 'No, to be quite honest, I’m a little scared. I miss my mum and dad and my sister. I just want to go home'.
One night, after the inmates had been locked in their rooms, Nicholas woke up to find a man sitting on his bed. ‘He was rubbing my leg, saying, “Oh, it’ll be alright, young fella” … and that went on for another night.’
When Nicholas woke up a few nights later to find the officer touching his penis, he was ‘just totally shocked. I didn’t know what to do, if I could tell anybody … A couple of days after that he was trying to put his finger in my butt, touching my penis. I was trying to scream, but nothing was coming out. I was petrified’.
The officer threatened Nicholas, saying that if he told anyone what had happened, he would be found hanging in his room, and it would be made to look like suicide.
Soon after these first assaults, the officer raped Nicholas. After that, Nicholas tried unsuccessfully to stay awake at night, and a couple of nights later, the officer raped him again. ‘I was laying there crying. I just wanted to die … “Be a man, you’ll be right”, he says to me. I never really got over it.’
The sexual abuse he experienced in the juvenile detention centre had a big impact on Nicholas’s adult life. He has had issues with substance abuse, criminal offending, and unemployment. He has attempted to take his own life a number of times, and he has problems with trust, anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks and aggression. Nicholas tried counselling, but found it too difficult to talk about the sexual abuse, so he had to stop.
Nicholas told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve lived with this for nearly 40 years and have not told anyone up until today. I have felt so angry all my life … I’m in detention now, I’m trying to face my demons … I never meant to be in and out of jail … [I’m a] stupid shit’.
‘I’d now like to change, I think I really want to change my ways … but always in the back of my mind is being raped as a child. Speaking up about it’s been a turning point for me.’