Roy Leonard's story

‘I haven’t really disclosed it to anyone. I’ve kept it to myself. I’m still a bit scared about even bringing it up … this is probably the first time that I’ve actually mentioned the sexual abuse.’

Roy was the youngest child in a family where both parents were alcoholics. His older siblings kept him focused until they left primary school to attend high school in the late 1980s. Without their support Roy began to wag school and got into trouble. He started to run away, drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and become rebellious.

‘The Department of Children’s Services stepped in and I was put on a care and control order because I wasn’t going to school on a regular basis. Therefore I was placed in the boys’ home.’

Roy was 12 years old when he was placed in the Brisbane Catholic-run boys’ home. He lived at the home for almost two years. He found the home physically violent, from the other boys as well as the Brothers, and was regularly sexually abused by two of the Brothers for a period of about six months.

‘I actually was punched in the mouth by one of the Brothers … every weekend I’d go home to my family and when we’d come back we’d be strip searched and checked to see if we had any cigarettes or things like that on us … there were times when we were flogged with straps.’

The strip searches were always conducted by the director of the home and Roy found the process humiliating and degrading.

‘If you didn’t do it you’d be punished further.’

Grooming and bribery for sexual acts were also regular features of Roy’s experience in the home.

‘There were a few other fellas that used to try and sweet talk you as well. They’d take you into the back where the Brother’s room used to be and they had a confessional closet sort of thing where they use to take you and give you chocolates and try to butter you up to stop you from saying or speaking out. And they used to let you drive their cars.’

Roy’s most regular sexual abuser was ‘one of the ones who would allow us to wash his car and let us drive it around the compound’.

Roy was also abused when he went on a camp with the Brothers and the other boys.

The abuse has severely affected Roy’s life.

‘I suppose I felt dirty but different to a lot of people because I found it hard having normal relationships, because I found that being with a male was the right thing. Still today, I find it hard to actually have a girlfriend. I’ve had a few over the years but they haven’t lasted whereas my male relationships have lasted a lot longer.'

‘I always felt abnormal to everyone else and I’ve suffered with that for many, many years. There’s even been thoughts of self-harm because of it.’

Roy has ongoing issues with anger and paranoia and is hypervigilant about the people his nieces and nephews spend time with.

‘If I had any inclination or any thought that something bad was happening to them like happened to me I’d become very defensive and I would lash out. I would say that would be a part of what happened to me. It would make [me] very angry, very angry.’

He continues to receive support from his mother and siblings and has a long-term partner but he has yet to disclose his sexual abuse to any of them. Speaking to the Royal Commission has been very confronting for him but something he sees as valuable to his ongoing wellbeing.

‘This is my turning point and I’m trying to contain myself, control myself but I become very emotional … I’ve actually started counselling outside of jail in relation to a lot of things in my life because I’ve been so confused all my life. There’s been a lot of paranoia in my life as well.'

Roy received some compensation with the help of the Aboriginal Legal Service for the physical abuse he received at the home. But he didn’t disclose his sexual abuse in that process. Roy has never made a statement to police and remains concerned about retribution being meted out to him.

‘If I had to [make a police statement] I probably would but … is it going to come back and bite me down the track later on, is what I’m concerned about … someone that they know could come after me.’

He feels unsafe in jail and feels that he has frequently been targeted by both guards and other inmates.

‘There is a lot of people in here that would quite easily do the same thing [sexually abuse him] … Staff members … call me gay and call me everything else and I’ve got to try and brush it off by throwing it back at them.

‘I’ve always felt like I’m one Indigenous person on my own [in jail] … it’s been very hard. I’m just afraid of the repercussions of what’s going to happen … even coming up here today I’ve had to take deep breaths walking down the walkway.’

Roy would like to undertake counselling in jail but doesn’t believe that this would be a private or confidential process.

‘I’d love to be able to do counselling in jail … there is no confidentiality, there is no duty of care [in here].’

Roy believes that he would have reported his abuse as a child if he knew that the adult was going to be sympathetic to him.

‘If there was someone there that was constantly there that I could confide in I would have always went to them and spoke to them. Having two parents as alcoholics made it hard at the same time, made it hard because I couldn’t talk to them about it.‘

He feels strongly that children in care need to be protected.

‘My main concern … [is] to put something out there so that shit doesn’t happen to future generations … I hate to think like this but I have to, if my sister’s children were to be taken off her … and placed in an institution of any sort or family care … are they going to be safe?’

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