Yannis remembers his childhood as a happy one, although his father was a harsh disciplinarian. In the early 1980s he began attending a Christian Brothers high school in inner Sydney. For the first year he was a good student, and very involved in sports.
When Yannis was in Year 8, one of the elderly Brothers started taking him out of class. He can’t remember what excuse was given, or why the teacher agreed to it – ‘it’s not like I was in trouble or anything’.
They went up to a little room nearby, where Yannis had to lie across a chair. The Brother pulled Yannis’ pants down, and whipped him with a leather strap.
The Brother remained calm, but Yannis was very confused. He was beaten in this way around eight times, and sometimes the Brother would molest him. ‘He did, on about two or three occasions, touch my genitals and that.’
Thinking about it now, Yannis thinks this Brother may have been abusing other boys, too. ‘I don’t think I would have been the only one.’
Yannis remembers telling his parents that he didn’t want to go to school, and truanting a number of times that year. He didn’t think he could tell his parents about the abuse however, as he presumed they would not believe a Brother would do such things.
‘He told me not to tell no one. I felt afraid to tell my dad, ‘cause my dad, he was a hard person, know what I mean ... I felt like if I did, my dad would blame me.’
The abuse stopped that same year, but by this time Yannis was not going to school very often. His parents allowed him to change schools.
He left in Year 10, became depressed and heavily drug addicted. ‘I felt guilty about things that happened ... I was only young, and I felt guilty. That’s probably when I started to use drugs and that, to block things out.’
A year or two later, Yannis started getting into trouble with the law. Much of his adult life has been spent in prison, as he committed crimes to support his drug habit. Yannis has not been able to access adequate rehabilitation support while incarcerated. ‘The community think that there is a lot of help in jail. There isn’t.’
Yannis tried a rehab program in the community during the 90s, and stayed for three months. ‘I didn’t mind it. And then, I don’t know ... They were asking me why I use and that, and it sort of brought back things.
‘’Cause they kept saying, oh you must use because something happened when you were younger ... And I took off from there. ‘Cause I didn’t want to talk about it.’
Until he contacted the Royal Commission, Yannis had never spoken to anyone about the abuse.
‘I’ve held it in for over 30 years, with an addiction. Do you understand? And I’m tired ... I feel I have to let it out, to let go ... I know I need the support, and that’s it. There’s no support in custody.’
Yannis told the Commissioner that drugs have cost him a lot over the years. ‘I’ve lost everything. I’ve lost my family, I’ve lost my kids. I’ve lost my freedom. I’ve lost a lot of things. My family, they have nothing to do with me because of my addiction. I’ve been on my own. And it’s been hard, mate.’
He now feels ready to deal with the abuse, ‘to talk someone about that instead of using the drugs ... I realise the drugs only block it temporarily, and in that temporary stage they’re creating bigger problems anyway’.