The first person to sexually abuse Xavier was a close male relative who lived in the family home. It was the mid-1970s and Xavier was six years old. The man threatened him, and so he didn’t tell anyone about this abuse.
‘I ran away from home when I was about nine, and pretty much stayed on the streets for a while, and then I got picked up.’
When he was apprehended by authorities a care and control order was made. Nobody asked him why he had run away. ‘They just assumed that I was uncontrollable, that I just wouldn’t do as I was told. But I just didn’t want to be at that house at that time.’
He was placed in a Brisbane youth training centre run by the government, and went in and out of this facility a number of times. One of the senior officers, Mr Peterson, would take a number of boys down to the laundry on weekends to sort out the clothes.
‘He’d come down and he’d give you smokes and that, and then he’d take one of the boys into one of the cells ... and just yeah, rape us.’
This abuse happened to Xavier nearly every weekend for months.
Each time he was admitted to the centre ‘the officers would strip search us. It was scary at first, but then you got used to it. Especially after what Peterson had done because you were used to stripping down for him. Every time you came back you had to get strip searched. It was always males doing the strip search’.
The boys didn’t really talk about what Peterson was doing to them, ‘but everyone says you know, “keep away from him, don’t go anywhere near him”, things like that. But it was just too hard to do’.
Another older officer would ‘feel you up’, and Xavier recalls one of the other boys assaulting this man one day. He was also subjected to severe physical abuse by another of the guards, which included getting a black eye and being knocked unconscious.
Xavier was assigned a welfare caseworker, but never disclosed to her any of the abuse by his relative or the officers, as ‘I didn’t plan on telling anyone’.
Nor did he tell his family. ‘I was fairly close with Mum and Dad but they never knew about what had happened. I remember my parents taking me to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist just said I was a troubled child.’
Xavier was 13 when the relative who had abused him moved interstate, and he returned to the family home for the next three years. ‘Everything was fine from then on in, I was good, never got into trouble or anything like that.’
Around a decade later this man was charged with sex offences against other children, and Xavier was asked if he had also been abused. He confirmed that this was the case.
These matters went to court, and Xavier gave evidence. The man was convicted on numerous counts and given a custodial sentence. The family was fractured by these events, with some still not believing the abuse ever happened.
The court process brought back many bad memories for Xavier, but he was not provided any counselling. He then made a victims of crime claim. Although he received financial compensation, counselling was again not offered.
Xavier has yet to report the sexual abuse at the training centre to police, but is now prepared to do so. He thinks that during a psychiatric assessment conducted for the court case against his relative he disclosed the abuse at the training centre, but this was not made known to police at the time.
Recently he began accessing counselling through a Catholic organisation, but gave up because he kept having to change workers.
‘This happened on a regular basis and I found the whole experience really traumatising – I would have to spill my guts to a new counsellor. I eventually gave up because I went through about six different counsellors over a year and it became too much for me to cope with.’
As Xavier has gotten older he has found it more difficult to block out memories of the abuse. ‘It’s hard, it’s hard. It seems to be harder now than what it was then. I’ve been trying to get rid of it again ... When I first heard about the Royal Commission and that, that’s when it really started coming back to me. And I thought, well, I’d like to be heard.’
Xavier narrowly missed out on the Queensland Government’s Forde redress scheme, and the foundation did not offer him any other assistance. Later he attempted to engage a number of solicitors about a civil claim. It took years before he found a legal firm willing to assist him, and no action has gone ahead as yet.
His own experiences of abuse have made him very protective of his children. ‘I think it helped a lot actually, because I kept more of an eye on them, and sort of looked for the signs that I used to go through. I don’t let them out of my sight. They don’t stay over people’s places or anything like that, I don’t put them in that situation ...
‘I think the kids have saved me. I honestly do. I think if I didn’t have them I probably wouldn’t be here now. I’ve got a reason to get up every morning.’