‘My mum, she was a drug addict. My aunty, she turned to drugs too … I started being bad at a young age. Started breaking into people’s houses. The first time I went to juvey I was 12 years old on my birthday. They come and took me on my birthday.’
Solomon was born in the 1990s to a violent father and a mother with substance abuse problems. From an early age, when it became apparent his parents could not care for him, he was made a ward of the state and his aunty took him in. After his aunty also turned to drugs, Solomon was placed in numerous different foster homes and spent a lot of time on the Sydney streets engaging in antisocial and criminal behaviour.
When Solomon was about 10 he was out one night waiting to catch a bus when a man approached, offering to show him pornographic magazines. As Solomon was looking at a magazine, the man pulled out a knife, opened Solomon’s pants and molested him. Solomon was shocked, pushed the man away and ran until he got all the way home. Ashamed and confused, Solomon never told anyone about the incident.
‘I never told no one about it. I never told my mum or nothing … It’s hard to speak about things like that, you know … I thought I would get in trouble. I would’ve got a big hiding from my mum for being out.’
By the time he was 14, Solomon had himself become addicted to drugs and had a criminal record. At this stage he was living on the balcony of a local church.
‘When I was living on the street I was about 14. My mother she had this church bit ... that’s where I used to sleep. And my mum, this is my real mum, she had her bed there in the corner and there was all other beds, like a little dormitory sort of thing but it was out the front of [the] church. And I would sleep there.
‘And I was stoned too, stoned and that. And this bloke jumped in the bed and he started touching me up and that. And I couldn’t run ’cause he had me, you know … I was crying afterwards … All the other crowd, they weren’t there. Only when I got my methadone and shit like that, drugs and come back, roll a cone. Then bang. He threatened me ... Not hitting me, he was just roughing me up you know. When I tried to run, tried to move, he just roughed me up. And he touched me up. But I never told no one about that.’
Solomon did not know the name of the man who molested him but recognised him as a local from the area.
‘I seen him a couple of times ’cause he was local, you know … Never said nothing … Never did nothing … I stayed away from him … I never went to the police because I was scared and only 14. And plus I was a drug addict. They’re not gonna believe a drug addict. They’re gonna think I’m making that shit up. Why would I make something like that up?’
Solomon felt deeply ashamed by what had happened, particularly since the perpetrator, like Solomon himself, was Aboriginal. ‘I kept everything a secret, especially that day. I don’t want no one to know about it … It plays every day in my mind. I feel worthless … I don’t feel right in myself no more. My manhood has been taken away from me …
‘I jumped to the drugs to get rid of thinking about stuff like that, you know. And like thinking about violence and that, what my mum went through. And then plus me being through sexual assault, and being a black and being sexually assaulted by another black. Like that hurts just thinking about that. That hurts, you know. I don’t want none of that.’
Several years later, when Solomon was older, he sought out the perpetrator and ‘I bashed him and that … I went and knocked his teeth out’. Solomon never saw the man again and the assault was never reported.
Solomon has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison for various offences.
‘I’m just sad all the time. Like I’m depressed, I’m sad. There’s a big weight on my shoulders and I feel everything [is] an effort, you know. I don’t feel safe out in the community no more. That’s why I keep coming to jail because I feel safer in here, even though there’s rapists and that. But I got a lot of brothers in jail. They look after me. This is where my family is, in jail. So that’s why I just keep coming back to jail … I’m paranoid and that when I get out too. You know, like I’m very paranoid. I think people are talking about me.’
Before speaking with the Commissioner, Solomon had never told anyone about the abuse he experienced as a child. While in prison he engaged in self-harming behaviour and was prescribed medication.
‘Didn’t solve anything. That’s what they think they can do. They think they can put you on medication and that so you can forget about it, but it’s harder. You don’t forget about anything.’
He has never received counselling and, although he still feels a deep sense of shame, he is beginning to understand that coming to terms with what happened might help him break the cycle of drug addiction and imprisonment.
Solomon never had a caseworker looking out for him when he was a ward of the state, and feels that as a child ‘they all given up on me, so I just went and done my own thing, got out on the street and tried to fend for myself’. He would like to see welfare departments learn from the mistakes they made with him in order to nurture and protect vulnerable children.
‘You see a lot of kids today, there’s a lot of kids down on the street like how I was. I’d like to see the little kids being looked after with a roof over their head without predators around them. I’d like to see them safe. Welfare, they just put them in different homes. They just put young fellas in different homes and [with] rock spiders. Make sure they’re safe even with their own family, like their aunties or uncles. Don’t have to be with their mother, as long as they’re with their family. Same family, that’s where they don’t interfere with them.’