Sean Michael's story

Sean was removed from his family in the early 1980s, when he was two years old. His mother’s violent partner had forced her to take photographs of him touching Sean’s genitals, and this had been reported to police. ‘When they came to get me my room was covered in faeces. I was filthy and covered in excrement. I was neglected and malnourished.’

He was made a ward of the state and placed in short-term foster care, then sent to live with his grandmother. She was extremely emotionally and physically abusive towards him. ‘My grandmother would say I did things wrong in order to get me into trouble. She would flog me with various things such as kettle cords, cricket bat or a strap. She used to beat me till I was bruised.’

It was such a traumatic environment that Sean attempted suicide. ‘The constant threats, beatings and starvation affected me so badly that at the age of seven years old I tried to kill myself by taking handfuls of my grandmother’s medications. My pop had come home and found me on the floor and took me to hospital.’

After his school noticed bruising on his body, his grandmother lost custody. He ended up in a Western Sydney receiving centre. During his two years there he was sent to stay with his grandmother on weekends. He then went to a juvenile detention centre, where he was introduced to cigarettes and drugs, and experienced various kinds of abuse.

At 11 Sean was sent to a government-run residential care facility in the New South Wales southern highlands. One night, soon after he arrived, two of the older boys took him from his bed and out into the bush behind the home. They stripped him and tied him to a tree, then both repeatedly raped him.

He was knocked unconscious and left in the cold all night until a staff member found him bleeding and took him to hospital. Although this matter was referred to police and went to an initial court hearing, Sean decided not to proceed. ‘I couldn’t do it anymore, because I couldn’t look at them ... I just didn’t feel safe.’

Another boy at the home tried to make Sean perform oral sex, but he refused. He told his house parents, but they said he was making it up. When he was 12 Sean ran away with a friend, staying with this boy’s family. His friend’s father raped him, and he fled into the night, being taken to hospital after he was found injured on the streets.

Sean began attending a new school, and was bullied badly. ‘They used to call me a faggot and all sorts of disgusting names because they had found out what happened to me.’

During his time in the homes, Sean witnessed many other kids being abused in different ways. ‘Sometimes it’s not about yourself either, it’s about what you’ve seen happen to other people as well.’

When his pop took him for a psychiatric assessment the doctor sexually abused him while he was under hypnosis, causing him to bleed. His pop came in during this incident and bashed this man who later lost his licence.

Even though authorities knew of the abuse at his grandmother’s place, they kept sending him there. He was getting older and bigger so she was less physically aggressive to him, but the emotional abuse continued. ‘I hated her. I wanted to kill her. I wished that she would just die so I could be free from her.’

Sean became violent himself as a young man. ‘I would bash anyone who I thought was a threat. I will never let anyone hurt me again.’

His pop died when he was in his early teens which was very upsetting as this was the only person he ever felt he could trust. He met up with his mum, which was a disaster. ‘She wouldn’t talk to me or tell me anything. She was still with the man who molested me as a baby ... All I wanted to know is why she didn’t love me.’

The impacts of this ongoing abuse include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, several suicide attempts, nightmares, problems with sexual intimacy, and trouble interacting with women. ‘I have not been able to have normal relationships with girls growing up. I feel dirty all the time even when I have scrubbed myself in the shower.’

Sean estimates he was raped seven times altogether as a child, and this has caused ongoing physical injuries. ‘Every time I go to the bathroom I am reminded of each and every one of those rapes. It still hurts to this day to use my bowels. I am too afraid to have the operation to fix it. I am too afraid to be unconscious for fear of being hurt again ... I have bad spinal problems from the kicking and beatings across my back from Nan that my spine is bent and hurts all the time.’

Finding out that some of the children in his life, including his daughter, have also been sexually abused has been extremely distressing for Sean. ‘All this had caused me to spiral further into depression ... I felt helpless and useless as a father.’

Sean has obtained his welfare records, and is slowly working his way through them. He has tried counselling but only gets to a certain point and then pulls out. He recognises that ‘I just can’t keep going back to drugs, because it’s just a Band-Aid’.

His current partner is supportive, and he looks forward to making a life with her. ‘Now I understand that I’ve got to see a counsellor and all that. I do have to deal with it. Because I do like the family I’ve got at the moment, and I do want to make a change and be part of that family as the man I should be. I don’t want these things in the way.’

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