Wollongong Man’s Abuse Lawsuit Finally Settled
Wollongong Man’s Abuse Lawsuit Finally Settled
A Wollongong man has received an apology from the NSW Government for ‘heinous and frequent” sexual, physical and emotional abuse he suffered as a child at three juvenile detention centres.
The Department of Family and Community Services acknowledged the man suffered at the hands of “staff and others” between 1967 and 1972. In a letter dated March 17, Deputy Secretary Deidre Mulkerin described the abuse as “reprehensible”.
“The people who abused you, and the people who did not act to protect you from the abuse, breached your trust in them,” she said.
“I am also greatly saddened to hear about the suffering you endure in these institutions and the consequences of the abuse for your adult life. I deeply regret that as a child and a young person you did not experience the care and protecting to which you were unquestionable entitled.”
The man, now 58, spent his childhood in more than a dozen different NSW custodial institutions. He was physically abused, humiliated, punished and raped at Mittagong Training School for Boys Daruk Boys’ Training School and Tamworth’s Institution for Boys.
At the age of eight, he had fled his Villawood home after his father was sent to jail. One time he went “up the street” to a neighbour’s place, another time he ended up in Dubbo. By age nine, police had classified him “uncontrollable” and he was taken into custody.
At the holding shelter a senior police officer took him to a room, told him to strip off, then the officer joined him in the shower. “I remember him commenting on how smooth my skin was. I wanted to run away. But he held me. I was terrified. And then he raped me.”
The next day, he was taken to the court house and remembers the magistrate asking him why he ran away from home. He was unable to speak due to shock. He was made a ward of the state.
“I lived in fear every day of my life and can’t forget what happened to me,” he told the Mercury this week. “I remember every rape, every face, every ounce of pain and every humiliating episode. I’ve spent more than 80 per cent of my life in custody. I don’t trust anyone and I can’t help but blame the government who made me a ward of the state… and didn’t protect me from the animals who abused me”.
The man repeatedly escaped from the institutions, tried to tell his story, but no one would listen. When he was 17, he was sentenced to Parramatta jail where he met his father again. After suffering through years of drug addiction and developing bipolar disorder, he is trying to turn his life around.
Illawarra lawyer giving victims a voice
Victims of abuse deserve to have their stories heard irrespective of the circumstances or the length of time that has passed, according to Wollongong lawyers Melinda Griffiths.
“Many children in detention get into trouble and fall into a spiral they can’t escape” she said. “The turning point for Steven Grainger was when someone finally listened and believed him.”
The Slater and Gordon lawyers said addressing the underlying reasons for children ending up in detention was incredibly important “if we want to stop this devastating problem that has been persisting for decades”.
She applauded recent NSW Government moves to eliminate limitation defences in civil claims for child abuse survivors.
“But there’s still a long way to go towards atoning for decades of abuse,” she said. “Without a nation redress scheme, victims of historical child abuse will still need to go through costly and psychologically damaging litigation for their suffering to be acknowledged.”
Ms Griffiths said March amendments to the NSW Limitation Act abolished unfair time limits that prevented thousands of survivors of historical child abuse from seeking justice.
Before the changes, survivors had three years from when they suffered abuse to commence compensation proceedings. It can take many years for survivors to find the strength to acknowledge their trauma.
“Countless victims were deemed to be ‘out of time’ when they finally tried to seek justice,” Ms Griffiths said.
After years of legal attempts to have limitation periods extended- including landmark class actions run by Slater and Gordon – the Government apologised to victims of historical child abuse “and removed the use-by date’ for justice”.
This article was originally published by the Illawarra Mercury. Some names have been withheld for privacy purposes.
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