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Tyler Craig's story

Tyler was a Year 3 student at a government school in Queensland in the 1990s when he was sexually abused by a Year 7 girl.

‘I’d only ever seen the girl around a couple of times’, he said. ‘But there was just two or three occasions where she just randomly come up and led me into the toilet …

‘I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with what was going on. It always started off with a bit of touchy-feely but it was pretty much the whole penetration, the whole thing like that. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was just listening to her.’

Tyler didn’t tell anyone about the incidents, partly because he didn’t think he’d be believed. Some years earlier Tyler had been sexually abused on separate occasions by two young boys, and when he tried to tell his parents about it they accused him of lying.

He had another reason for keeping the abuse to himself: he didn’t believe it was abuse. ‘Even to this very day’, he said, ‘I just don’t feel like these people, or even her, were there to hurt me or take advantage of me’.

As an adult, Tyler has come to realise that this attitude is itself a result of his troubled childhood.

‘It’s blurred up my view on what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what isn’t, you know. Because I hear the community and all over the news that this kind of thing’s wrong, you know, children are being hurt, this and that.

‘But then I think back on what happened when I was young and I think, well, what happened might have been illegal but I didn’t feel violated. I didn’t feel like somebody was causing harm to me or taking advantage of me, even if that was the case. And so, here I am in jail.’

Tyler’s first step towards crime came in his early teens. His stepdad at the time was a violent drug addict who physically abused Tyler’s mother.

‘I just got sick of him pushing her around. I seen him doing it one day so I’ve actually attacked him, I’ve just grabbed a weapon to get him off of her. And the police came … and they’re like “Do you want him gone?” – like, my stepdad – and she was like “No”. So they left and she told me I had to go. So I got kicked out on the street.’

Tyler fell in with a bad crowd and started ‘fighting, stealing things from shops, you know, trying to break into cars, graffiti, just the usual street stuff’. But the real problems didn’t emerge until his late teens.

‘The problems weren’t because of who I was hanging out with and doing things on the street. The problems started to become mental issues, things that were coming up in my head because of, you know, I guess things that had happened in the past and probably other reasons as well. And I started feeling like – wanting to act out on these sort of thoughts and things that I was getting.

‘At first, though, it was a mental game to me. It was: lie to somebody online and tell them that I’ve done things with young girls that hasn’t happened, in order for me to feel like I’ve actually lived out a fantasy, without having to hurt anybody. But it turns out they frown upon that as well. You can’t do that.’

Eventually Tyler was charged with assault and later with possessing child pornography. He did time in jail and when he got out he started a relationship with a 15-year-old girl. She came over to his place one night and they had sex.

‘For the first time in my life I actually used protection. And I didn’t finish. Basically I didn’t get to the point of orgasm or whichever way you want to put it, ‘cause I just, I don’t know, it just felt, like, bad, basically.

‘And I actually admitted to a counsellor that it had happened because I didn’t want it hanging over my head. I felt pretty worried about it. It was bothering me a lot and I felt like maybe I’ve got to get something dealt with because that could just be the start of something much worse.’

As Tyler expected, the counsellor passed his admission onto police. He was charged, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a little over a year in jail. At the time of his session with the Royal Commission he was a few months away from finishing his sentence.

Recently, Tyler has participated in every counselling, group therapy and training session he can. He would have liked to have started these sessions months ago but wasn’t allowed. The rules say that prisoners who are being held on remand aren’t eligible for the services – something that Tyler finds ‘ridiculous’. He was held on remand for almost 10 months before his official sentence was handed down.

He said he would like to see services provided not only to prisoners on remand but to people in the general community, so that crimes can be stopped before they start.

‘Maybe if there’s more time spent on some advertising, you know. There’s always this advertising for people to help for this and help for that. There should be something saying “If you’ve got this issue you’re not alone, you can get help for it rather than doing the wrong thing”.

‘But there isn’t that kind of advertising around. It’s just everybody waits until something happens and then it’s all over the TV but nobody sits there and goes “Hang on, if we paid more attention to the help maybe we can prevent a lot of this from happening”.’

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