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Tyson's story

After being abused extensively as a child, Tyson himself became violent.

‘When I left school I … basically went to the streets and I found myself in Kings Cross’, Tyson told the Commissioner. ‘I had two choices: hurt people or let people hurt me. And for a while I chose to let people hurt me. And I just, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t do it anymore. I could not be – I could not let people do that to me anymore. So the next person who tried to make that arrangement with me, I robbed him … and from that moment on … I wasn’t, wasn’t the victim any more …I was the violent person who could defend himself and would. And I could take from other people and didn’t care.’

Tyson grew up in Sydney in the 1970s and 80s. From the age of six he was sexually abused, on a regular basis, by a number of family members. At around 10 he was sent to a government-run boarding school, which specialised in behavioural and emotional needs. His mother thought it would help him. There, he was the youngest child in his wing.

On his first night, Tyson was raped by two boys aged 14 or 15. On his second night he was dragged into the toilets and raped by at least eight people. It seemed to Tyson that everyone at the school was used to these things happening. He recalls a female staff person watching and calling them ‘dirty boys’ but she didn’t do anything about the abuse. A female nurse would frequently touch the boys while they were showering, saying she was checking they were ‘clean’.

One boy, Paul, was the ringleader and particularly violent. On one occasion, the boys shoved Tyson’s head into a toilet that had faeces in it. On another night, when Tyson was attempting to escape, Paul intercepted and raped Tyson in the bushes. Tyson describes life at the school as ‘brutal beyond brutal. It affected my whole life’.

Tyson reported the abuse to a female staff member who took him into a staff room. She told him he enjoyed what the other boys were doing to him and that he must be a ‘poofter’. Tyson was 10 or 11 years old at the time and didn’t even know what ‘poofter’ meant. He told her he didn’t enjoy it. Then, in order to ‘prove’ Tyson wasn’t gay, she forced him to perform oral sex on her. Tyson recalls this staff person would then abuse him any time she was on the night shift. On the other nights, the older boys would rape him.

Tyson was always in trouble at school and often ran away. He never told his mother about the abuse and consequently she kept taking him back to the school.

To this day, Tyson feels he can’t tell his mother, whom he loves, ‘because she would blame herself for what happened … for keeping taking me back’.

After about two years, when he was about 12, Tyson was sent to a mainstream day school. He couldn’t cope, kept wagging and was eventually returned to the special needs school but as a day student. However, it was still very traumatic for him to be on the premises. He didn’t do any school work and didn’t get an education. ‘This is a pity too because I’m actually quite smart.’

Tyson became extremely angry and had no respect for authority. After he left school he didn’t want to go back home and lived on the streets instead.

Once his criminal life began there seemed no turning back. ‘Everything I ever done in my life was out of fear … Once I realised that I could be scarier than the things that I was scared of, that was when things got out of control … I’m not proud of my actions, you know, I’m not proud of what I done. I’m not that person any more, you know, but I, I also remember how safe I felt.’ Tyson told the Commissioner, ‘Back in those days I had no problems whatsoever in beating somebody up for nothing.’

In prison since he was 18 years old, Tyson has never officially disclosed his sexual abuse.

He didn’t pursue the redress scheme because he was scared to. Remembering his boarding school experience when he reported abuse, he was afraid disclosing again would have a negative impact on him. He also doubted an apology would be useful.

In prison, Tyson completed his Higher School Certificate with high grades.

After a death in Tyson’s family, which he found very upsetting, prison chaplains were very supportive. He opened up to them about the abuse but still hasn’t received any counselling from a specialist in this area. He has since become a Christian and volunteers as an assistant to the chaplain. In this capacity he is helping other inmates.

‘Now, two years on, I don’t have hate, I don’t have hate … To have purpose in my life is so incredible, to have people who care about me and don’t want anything from me, you know. And to be able to be that person for other people as well is just so, it’s so awesome.’

When the Commissioner suggested he had experienced kindness, Tyson agreed. ‘I did. I did. It’s not something I’m very familiar with’.

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