‘My father was really abusive towards me mum, bashed me mum growing up and whatnot. And he went to jail for two years when I was 10, 11 years old. And that’s when I ended up getting in trouble with the law … I sort of went a bit out of control, started stealing cars and … Nothing serious but, you know, still breaking the law.’
In the 1990s, around the age of 12, Nik was sent to a juvenile justice centre on the south coast of New South Wales. He remembered ‘a lot of violence’, with boys bashing each other and sometimes attacking staff.
When he was released, Nik quickly reoffended and was put back into the same institution. The day after arriving, he was taken to an isolated room by a staff member.
‘He took me into an office and pretty much started to do his … do what he was doing straight away. He asked me a few questions and then, you know, had his hands all over me. And I was scared shitless, I didn’t know what to do. So it was pretty brazen, you know … he must have had some confidence that no one was going to disturb him …
‘I was in the office with him for 20 minutes or so, and yeah, that was the first time he got me.’
The man abused Nik a number of times, often forcing him to perform oral sex. It only stopped when Nik was put in a holding cell after ‘losing the plot’.
‘I tried to talk to another staff member about what’d happened, but they just dismissed it, just said, “You’re kidding”, you know. Yeah, nothing come of it.’
When he went back to live at home, Nik said, his mother knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell her what had happened.
He returned to school but struggled to keep up. He dropped out in Year 8 and was soon back in the juvenile justice system. After a car accident, Nik was sent to a detention centre in the north of the state.
He would occasionally go to the nurse for massages on his injured back. ‘And it ended up turning to … like I was 15, 16 years old, and she ended up forcing herself on me so to speak as well. But I didn’t look at that as nowhere near as bad as what … it didn’t traumatise me nowhere near as much as what the bloke did when I was only a young boy … she was in her mid-30s, and we ended up getting a bit of relationship going … But at the end of the day I was underage.’
By the time he was 18 Nik was in prison, and he’s been in and out ever since. When he spoke to the Commissioner, he still had a number of years to serve on his current sentence.
Since the sexual abuse he’s used tranquillisers and heroin ‘because it seems to stop … it’s the only thing that stops the pain, and the suffering. It doesn’t, you know, it numbs it, but deep down …
‘It’s always been there. It’s always been there. Like, I’ve nearly committed suicide numerous times … I blamed myself for many years, even though like, it’s stupid, it’s just absolutely moronic to do that but yeah … I’ve just been lost, you know. I felt dirty, really dirty.’
For more than 25 years Nik never had counselling or spoke to anyone about the abuse. And when he first contacted the Royal Commission in the mid-2010s, the memories resurfaced, doing what he called ‘really, really daunting damage’ to his mental health. As a result he decided not to tell his story.
‘But then, it just kept eating away at me, eating away at me and I thought, no, it’s something I have to do.’
Nik also got in touch with the legal service, knowmore, and they organised his first counselling sessions.
‘I broke down. A few weeks ago I was talking to a counsellor, and I broke down and started blabbering and sobbing and whatnot. But after it I felt like a new person. It really, you know, really helped to get it off me chest …
‘It’s only just now that I’ve been able to … I know it wasn’t my fault. Some people are just sick, you know, and I couldn’t do anything. I was a kid, I was a baby, you know what I mean, wasn’t even a teenager.’
Nik has always received good support from his family too, especially his mother, and he’d started talking to a fellow inmate who’s also a survivor.
Nik told the Commissioner that he’s been on ‘numerous medications’ in prison, ‘to try and stop the nightmares’, but it takes months to see a psychiatrist. And when he finally does it’s never the same doctor, so his treatment is fragmented.
And while he’s very keen to continue with counselling, he’s worried that it’ll be limited to a small number of sessions. The Commission was going to put him in touch with one of its counsellors, so Nik could access the help he needs.
He was also encouraged to stay in touch with knowmore, about the possibility of compensation for the sexual abuse.
‘They’re animals, you know, they’re absolute animals. To be in a place like that and to be forcing yourself upon kids, for fuck’s sake … It makes me sick that, like, if I rob a bank, and I don’t hurt anyone but I still rob a bank, I’m going to get an eight-year, 10-year jail sentence. But you’ve got these predators that go and molest numerous kids, you know, like for years on end, and they get six months’ jail ... it’s sick.’