One morning in the early 1960s, 11-year-old Shane was hit by a car and knocked off his bicycle. The driver took him to a secluded spot in a nearby service station. He said he was a nurse and would have to check Shane for injuries. This was the first time Shane was sexually abused.
Afterwards, when Shane was cycling away, the man drove after him and ran him down again. Shane told the Commissioner:
‘He knocked me off the bike and hurt me substantially, but not enough to hospitalise me or anything, it was just like I’d had an accident on me bike … [He told me] that if I ever told anybody I would not be believed and that he would run me over and this time it would kill me.’
The man stalked Shane for the next few months and abused him several more times. The experience infected Shane’s memory and his nightmares and went on to have a catastrophic impact on his life.
Shane began wagging school and ‘playing up’. He came angry and withdrawn, ‘This skinny little boy, growing up hating his family for letting this happen to him’.
Eventually he was made a ward of the state.
Shane spent almost all of his teenage years in boys’ homes and juvenile justice facilities. Every place he went he was abused. One of the worst offenders was a man named Scofield who worked at one of the homes. Scofield raped Shane many times, starting when Shane was 11. He would even abuse Shane in the car while driving him to his parents’ place for weekend visits.
‘All I did is ran straight around the back and hid in the chook shed and cried until I had my mum call me. When she asked me what was wrong I said I fell over and hurt myself.’
When Shane tried to report Scofield to one of the other officers at the home, he was ‘smacked in the mouth’. Years later, when he read his files, Shane discovered that the staff at the home knew he was being abused, not just by Scofield but by other boys as well. What he found most hurtful was how they dismissed the abuse as consensual homosexual activity.
‘So I suppose that if you are being held down under a bed, made to suck someone’s dick or for them to take you into the toilet block so they can fuck you is being “gay” in his eyes? Or the fact that if you did not do what they wanted you to do, you get held down late at night in the dorm or got gang-raped anyway, or they gave you a good bashing?’
Shane left the boys’ homes at 15. He was arrested at 17 and has been in and out of jail ever since. He spent decades feeling lonely and disconnected. ‘I have never been in a relationship’, he said, ‘as I don’t know how to love anybody’. Whilst on the outside he attempted suicide several times but was always rescued and revived by passers-by.
Shane’s early crimes were mostly theft. Later in life he committed several sex offences.
‘The abuse I done was for attention. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t like it. But I didn’t penetrate or anything like that. I just done the fondling side of things and tried to force them to say it because I couldn’t say anything. And I never denied it to the police, and if they wanted to whack on extra charges, I couldn’t care.’
A few years ago he sought help from a counsellor. ‘I told him the truth that I was in for sexual abuse against a boy. He then told me that he didn’t help people like me who are perpetrators.’
The parole board has insisted that Shane participate in their group counselling program for sex offenders. Shane refuses to. He is afraid of groups, particularly groups of men, because they spark memories of the pack rapes he suffered as a boy. For years he’s been trying to get one-on-one counselling.
‘The support that would matter to me at the moment would be private psychological counselling, normal counselling, in the way of one-on-ones to help me understand why all these things happened to me as a child, and to why did I go down that same very hurtful path later on in life.’