Ricky James's story

‘I suppose I rebelled against authority when I was younger. To some teachers I was good, to some I suppose I wasn’t ... I think it was just my stepdad couldn’t put up with me – uncontrollable child, was always running around, never going home.’

In the mid 1970s, Ricky was seven when he was told that his mother had left him and his siblings. The children found out only later that their mother had died of cancer. Ricky began to be sexually abused by his stepfather from a young age and though he told teachers at school, they didn’t believe him. He started running away from home and eventually was put under the care of Community Services in Victoria.

After committing several minor offences, Ricky was placed in a juvenile justice centre in the early 1980s at the age of 12. While he was there he was sexually abused by a male staff member who masturbated him and forced him to perform oral sex. Ricky didn’t report what had happened and believes other boys were abused by the same staff member.

Ricky was in the centre for about two or three months and then went to an older brother’s house, but he kept running away from there and for a period of years went between the juvenile justice centre and the homes of various family members and friends.

As a young adult, he got work and became a heavy drinker, though ‘mainly on Thursday, Friday, Saturday’. From about 1990, he was involved in ‘bits and pieces’ of criminal activity including driving offences, theft and indecent assaults, which were ‘basically against people I knew, but it was just like, opportunistic’.

He didn’t tell anyone about being abused as a child until about 2011 when he spoke with workers from the forensic health care service in Victoria.

‘I’ve always kept things to myself. I’ve never spoken to anyone. Basically drink and just not talk to people at all. Disappear without people knowing what I’ve been through.’

He was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and participated in prison programs to help him manage these symptoms. ‘If I do get depressed or down, best not to sit there and mull over it – actually let people know how I am feeling and dealing with it’, he said.

Ricky spoke to the Commissioner from jail. He’d been working as a carer for one of the older prisoners, work he hadn’t done before but found satisfying.

He is looking forward to being released and seeing his wife of 14 years. In relation to his offending behaviour, Ricky said, ‘She’s well aware of what’s going on’. He had a young son who was approved to visit the jail, but Ricky didn’t want him coming in.

While working with mental health staff, Ricky had reflected on his own offending behaviour. He told the Commissioner that his thought processes which had been shaped by being abused from a young age had changed.

‘Some of that thought process [was] “This must be what it’s like, you’ve got to get sex to get happiness”.’

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