When Simon was growing up in Queensland in the 1970s, his older sister Diane was charged with his care. Simon’s mother was away a lot and he never knew his dad, he said. Diane started sexually abusing Simon regularly ‘so I tried to run away from home whatever chance I could’. He wasn’t doing very well at school either. ‘And I started hangin’ round with boys on the street and that’.
Hanging with the wrong crowd put Simon on the path to committing minor offences and he showed up in court a few times for minor crimes. Simon was eventually sent to a detention centre and then another. He was physically abused in both places but it was in the second boys’ home, west of Brisbane, that he was sexually abused.
‘I haven’t really spoken about this to no one about the abuse I’ve had back then, what was going on at home … It’s done. Keep it all quiet and deal with it.’
Two of the officers in the home fondled him regularly. Simon knows that other boys were being sexually abused as well. ‘Back then I think we found comfort off each other. Not that we spoke … It must have been somehow we knew something was going on. We all were pretty close.’
He’s never reported the two officers. ‘I’ve kept that all pretty quiet.’ But he’d like to report it now.
Simon, who is now in his 40s, has been in and out of jail all his life for such offences as armed robbery and stealing. As part of his current sentence he’s had to undergo a sexual offenders program which really opened up his eyes. He’s had some counselling in prison as well. ‘I’ve been talkin’ about it, bein’ open and being true to myself. And yeah I think it’s taken a big weight off my shoulders.’
But Simon still feels the shame of it as well as confusion about his sexuality. It made him wonder, ‘Am I gay? … Why do I react to this kind of thing? But then …dealin’ with what I been through with my sister shows that … what happened at the home, like, I thought my sister thing didn’t feel that bad. A lot more worse a man doin’ something than what my sister done, you know what I mean?’
Maintaining relationships has been hard for Simon. He also finds it hard being close to his own children. ‘Yeah I’m scared to give ’em a cuddle … There’s just something that’s been in me.’ He hasn’t talked to his older children about what happened to him. ‘I’d feel like I’m losing my manhood.’
But he’s very clear that he’d want his own kids to be able to speak up if anyone was abusing them.
Simon believes having female officers in a boys’ home would help kids disclose sexual abuse. ‘It’s not something you want to speak up to another bloke about.’
‘Understanding about the abuse earlier would have been good, knowing that it’s not your fault. You don’t have to keep it in … You can speak up, it’s not a bad thing.’