Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Joe

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Mistreated and neglected as a child at home, Joe committed a range of petty thefts, sometimes to feed himself. He built up a record of offences and was sent to a residential institution where his experience was very positive. He says ‘I absolutely adored it’.

Sadly, this respite from his difficult life ended when he was sent to a custodial institution. Joe relates how the day he arrived, he was given cleaning duties and told to clean the corridor.

A member of staff passed by as he was working and he forgot to stand up. The staff member stamped on his hand as punishment.

After this, he was pleased to be told by another staff member, Billy, that he would be working in the kitchens the next day. But soon after he began work, Billy took Joe to a storeroom on the pretext that he wanted it tidied up.

The officer started talking to Joe about sports and gave him a cigarette. He then began touching Joe and abusing him. Joe describes how shocked he was. He tried to pull away, but Billy squeezed his throat, saying ’You do what I want, nobody cares about you. You’re just scum, you can disappear…’. 

Joe says that Billy then raped him. Afterwards, the officer told Joe to ‘sort himself out’ and shut the door. Joe stayed where he was for a while, crying. He did not tell anyone what had happened as he did not know who he could tell.

That night, he remembers having trouble sleeping and being woken at 6am the next morning to go to the kitchens. He realised that, in his terrified state, he had wet the bed. The officer in charge screamed at him and made him go naked to the shower block, continuously kicking him in front of the other boys.

The abuse in the kitchen happened again the next night and every night after that. Joe says he was absolutely terrified and certain that he was going to die, but felt powerless to fight back.

After some time, he managed to find the courage to request a transfer and he was moved to another custodial institution the following day.

At the new institution, Joe was constantly on his guard. He got into a fight in the dining room one day and hit a member of staff by mistake. That evening, the staff member took him to a landing at the top of the stairs.

Joe says he was terrified that this was the start of more abuse, but, he says ‘All he did was give me a good beating.’

Joe is now married. After he met his wife, he says he felt he could put the abuse behind him, but when his first child was born, he was tormented by fears that everyone wanted to harm his child.

He took cannabis to try and numb his anguish and pain and, thinking his family would be better off without him, decided to kill himself. Fortunately, Joe was supported by a drugs counsellor who advised him to tell his wife and speak to his doctor. 

He recalls waking the next morning in a deep depression and wondering why he had told anyone. It wasn’t until several years later that he experienced a breakdown and talked about the abuse again. This time he reported it to the police.

During the investigation, the police put Joe in touch with a victims and survivors group, but he says he could not cope with this and struggled to listen to other people’s experiences.

He was due to give evidence when Billy changed his plea to guilty. Reading statements from other staff members made Joe realise that they knew what had been happening to some of the boys. He describes how much it hurt and infuriated him when he found out that other officers knew about the abuse but did nothing.

Joe describes how, despite the fact he was terrified and powerless, he cannot get over the feeling that he should have fought Billy off.

He feels an incredible sense of shame hanging over him. But he adds, he was a frightened child who had stolen to feed himself when he went into the custodial institution. He simply wants someone to admit that they were wrong.

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