Shawn Patrick's story

Shawn grew up in a culture of ‘you don’t work for money and that. If I want something I just go and get it … No respect … I’ve never felt that respect from anyone else’.

He was born in the 70s in regional Queensland and grew up in a large Aboriginal family. When he was three or four he lived with his grandparents but maintained contact with his mother. The only memory he has of his father was, as a ‘baby’, he witnessed his father bash his mother.

Shawn told the Commissioner that, as a young boy, his uncles and older cousins used him during robberies. Being small, he would climb in through windows then open up the doors from the inside, so his relatives could enter premises and steal.

‘If I didn’t, they used to bash me.’ During this time of his life Shawn was sent to a residential non-denominational home for children a couple of times. There, he was often picked on by other kids. He was also sexually abused by staff members who approached Shawn in the showers and fondled his genitals.

By the age of seven Shawn was made a ward of the state. He was moved to a boys’ home where he stayed for two years. Being young and from different country to the other boys, he was again ‘bullied and picked on’. He tried to run away a couple of times.

A staff member at the home used to sexually abuse him in his bed. ‘One of the male fellas at night would come around and do things to me.’ Shawn never told anyone about this abuse. ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone about any of this at all. I’ve always kept it ... Didn’t trust anyone in authority and that.’

Shawn was then put into foster care. His foster parents told their own children that Shawn used to steal, so these children began to bully him. ‘I was always picked on and made fun of.’

Shawn recalls that his foster parents used to walk around the house naked. His foster father sexually abused him. ‘When I was about 10 the father used to take me fishing to different places … and that’s where he used to assault me and touch me up.’

At 17 Shawn went to an adult prison, where he was bashed.

The impacts of the physical and sexual abuse have been profound. Shawn has been in and out of prison throughout his adult life. He hasn’t had a relationship that has lasted more than six months. He has tried to take his own life ‘so many times’ in the last 10 years he’s on medication.

‘I’ve grown into a very, sort of, selfish person ... that’s my mechanism. I don’t reach out ... I always … fight. Fight the system or fight the authority and it’s not good. And it’s not the right way but it’s the way I’ve got results – when I’ve been left alone.’

In the late 2000s Shawn applied for compensation through the Queensland Redress scheme. He didn’t speak about his childhood sexual abuse at the time as he was uncomfortable doing so. He was also unaware it was grounds for compensation. As a result, Shawn was granted the minimum payment of $7,000.

Although Shawn has not spoken to a counsellor, he is coming to terms with his life and working with his ‘crisis’.

When speaking to the Commissioner about his incarceration admitted, ‘I don’t blame anyone for that. I’ve taken ownership of that. And I’m slowly starting, for the last five years, been trying to deal with that. And the best thing I’ve done, I know, is got myself away from my family … and they’ve always tried to reach out to me but I’ve always stood firm …’

When speaking about future reform, Shawn told the Commissioner the problem of child sexual abuse won’t ever stop. ‘There’s always gonna be one bad apple in the bunch.’ However, he recommended that children be made aware that they won’t get into trouble if they report such crimes.

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