‘I feel upset and depressed because I think I’m the one to blame. I didn’t tell people because I thought they wouldn’t believe me, and I would get into trouble. Sometimes I thought I would hang myself because of what happened to me.’
Noah’s mother has lived with a significant mental health diagnosis, and often had trouble caring for her kids. The family moved around a lot when Noah was young, with his mum taking and dealing illicit drugs. He changed schools often, and because he has an intellectual disability, he was always placed in the Special Education class if there was one available.
When his mum couldn’t cope, she sent the children to live with an aunty on the northern New South Wales coast. It was the early 2000s, and Noah was eight. His aunty beat Noah and his sister, and he used to run away a lot. To stop him going anywhere his aunty would tie him to a chair.
Noah was 10 when police were called to the home, and they found him restrained in this way. He was removed from his aunty’s care and placed in a nearby foster home. The foster family’s older son, Jake, who was around 18, sexually abused Noah.
‘I was playing a game, playing PlayStation ... He used to touch me up and that. He used to have sex with me.’ The abuse happened ‘pretty often’ over the few months Noah lived with the family. He told the foster parents about it, ‘but they didn’t believe me because it was their son’.
Noah was then moved to a Catholic residential care facility. This home was okay at first, and he was placed in a cottage with carers looking after him. After a few months an older boy called Trent moved in.
‘I reckon he was about 15 and he abused me after two weeks. I was in the cottages when Trent pushed me to the floor and raped me. He did it again and I told him I would tell on him if he did it again so he stopped doing that.’
‘On and off he would kiss me, try and feel me up, and he would make me do things to him sometimes. This went on for about two years. He would wait for the carers to go to sleep and then come into my room.’
Eventually, Trent ‘got caught kissing me by one of the nuns, Sister Clarice, and then I went to a different house’. Despite having been threatened with physical violence by Trent, Noah told the nun what had been happening.
In this new house Noah had ‘to go up to the priest’s house and help him cook’. Father Adam was in his 60s ‘and would smoke pot. He was real sick ... The priest gave me pot, and I ended up getting addicted’. The priest also have Noah money to buy methamphetamine, and ‘touched me up’.
When Noah was heavily drug-affected Father Adam ‘starting pulling me off and that, and kissing me’. The abuse went on for around two years, until Noah’s girlfriend caught them together. She bashed the priest, and after this Noah stopped visiting him.
His girlfriend also helped him deal with Trent. ‘One day I stayed at my girlfriend’s [house] and Trent from the home was living there and tried to touch me, but I told my girlfriend who told him to go’.
Noah spent periods in juvenile detention, and started self-harming. ‘When I was locked up I used to slash up. I never felt safe, always worried about someone doing stuff to me.’
He told a youth worker in prison about what Father Adam had done. She encouraged him to tell the police, but he decided not to. Even though he told the Commissioner that Father Adam ‘should be shot’ for what he did, Noah still feels like he is somehow to blame for the abuse he experienced ‘because of my disability and that’.
Noah’s criminal offending escalated, as did his drug taking. He was also diagnosed with schizophrenia, but medication has stabilised his symptoms.
As yet, Noah has not reported any of the abuse to police, but told the Commissioner he will speak with his support person about whether to do so. He thinks it might be good to make a report about Father Adam, to try and ‘get him off the street – he might be doing that to other people’.
Noah spoke to the Commissioner from prison, and is due to be released soon. He is undertaking a program to help him deal with his aggression and other issues, to try and prevent him from re-offending.
He still worries a little about how he will go when he is released, but knows he is making progress. ‘I’ve come a long way since I first got locked up. I was getting into fights every day.’
Every night Noah has nightmares about Father Adam, that one day he ‘is gonna come and kill me’. It is only recently that Noah has accessed counselling ‘because I don't like talking about it ‘cause it makes me feel guilty. But I have now, and want to keep that because it takes me time to work things out’.
Noah speaks to his mum on the phone sometimes, but has not had contact with his siblings. He relies on community workers to help him with his everyday life and decisions. ‘I would like to feel safe but is hard because I don’t really have a place and I need a support worker who stays with me.’