Tim Luke's story

Tim was born into a small Indigenous family in the early 1980s, and raised in northern New South Wales by his single mother. He had little connection to his father, and was sexually abused by an uncle who he later learned had abused another family member. His sibling was also sexually abused by other members of the community.

A year after his uncle abused him, Tim was ‘taken by community services’. ‘They got their own psychologist to diagnose me … as an abused child … I couldn’t get along at school, I didn’t have any friends … I couldn’t sit in a classroom, couldn’t do anything really. It was just difficult.’

He remembers being diagnosed with ADHD, and suspects that he also suffered from undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. Recalling this period, he became very emotional. ‘I sort of feel like … it was my fault I got taken away from Mum’, he said. ‘All Mum was asking for was help.’

Tim ran away from his foster carers because he felt like he was ‘getting punished’. He was next sent to a children’s home where he was sexually abused numerous times by a male carer.

On one occasion, the man found Tim smoking a cigarette, dragged him into a room and started taking off his belt. ‘I started getting hysterical … Then he just sort of sat me down … “No, it’s alright, it’s alright” … I didn’t know what was going on, you know … And then he started doing that again! I started fucking freaking out, and I pushed him out of the room, and done a runner.’

When Tim was later caught by the police, he told them that he didn’t want to go back. ‘He asked me why. I didn’t say nothing.’

Another time, the man forced Tim into a shower cubicle and told him to take off his clothes. He watched Tim shower, and then told him to sit on his lap.

‘I just flipped out, you know. And he whacked me, he hit me on the back and side of the head … I didn’t know what happened. And then all of a sudden I just blanked out.’ When Tim woke up, he was dressed and in bed. ‘I knew what happened. I had blood in me underpants.’

Tim often ‘took off’ from the home. He would hitchhike in search of family members, or end up on the streets. He spent about six months in a juvenile justice facility, before being sent back to stay on an ‘opportunity farm’ run by the home.

The farm was a tough place. The kids were cruel and picked on him. ‘I didn’t really get on with that many people’, he said.

One night, after Tim and some other children had pitched a tent, the same carer set up a camera and ‘pressured’ them to take off their clothes. ‘I knew it was wrong, you know, that he shouldn’t do that sort of stuff, but we were only kids’, Tim said. The man played with them ‘sexually’, and forced Tim to have intercourse with a girl. ‘I was only young, and I thought wow, you know, like I’m getting contact with a girl … And it wasn’t until about 10 years down the track that I realised that it was wrong.’

A couple of months later, the carer came into Tim’s room and threatened to send him back to ‘juvie’ if he didn’t have sex with him. Afterwards, when the man was asleep, Tim ‘took off’ again, and was soon charged with his first crime. In the years that followed, between stints in juvenile detention, he lived on the streets, committing crimes in order to survive.

Tim said that his experience of child sexual abuse ‘stuffed me for life’. He has had numerous convictions and prison sentences, and has smoked ‘a fair bit of pot’ because it calms him down. Tim stayed away from harder drugs because they caused the deaths of some of his friends, but he does take prescription medication. ‘I’m on pretty heavy stuff to help me sleep, otherwise I don’t sleep’, he said. ‘They got me on other stuff as well.’

Tim feels that, other than in prison, he doesn’t belong anywhere. ‘I’ve never really had anything, you know. Like I’ve never owned a car … I’ve never really had a place to live … I’ve never been able to rent anywhere.’ He know that he needs a lot of support to change this situation.

Apart from telling his father, who just ‘brushed it off’, Tim has been silent about the abuse for almost all his life. He recently disclosed to a man in prison, but this put him in a ‘bad situation’ because the man started telling everyone. Tim is now in protection. ‘I’m in a unit for people that don’t feel safe anywhere else’, he said. ‘I just stay in my cell.’

Tim’s recent disclosure to his mother shocked but did not surprise her. She is unable to visit him in prison, but they talk on the phone every day. He is having regular sessions with a counsellor because ‘everything’ is coming back.

His release day is approaching, but he has no other support to assist him with his transition out of the prison system.

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