A survivor of "disgraceful" abuse in state mental health units died of cancer during lockdown before he could present his evidence to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission.
Patrick Stevens - not his real name - shared with the commission his experiences at Manawaroa Unit and Lake Alice Hospital, where he was sexually, physically and psychologically abused in his early teens during the 1970s.
Survivors this week and next are sharing their experiences in seeking recognition and redress as part of the ongoing Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, investigating abuse in state and faith-based care between 1950 and 1999.
It was originally planned for March, but was postponed because of the Covid-19 lockdown. Stevens died in April.
His evidence, read by Amanda Hill, of Cooper Legal, the firm that represented Stevens, also detailed how the Ministry of Social Development had let him down, failing to act despite being aware of abuse.
Stevens was born in 1961, growing up in Manawatū in a "big whānau", where things were tough and there was little money.
Child welfare were first involved in 1967, when members of the community became worried he and his siblings were being neglected.
In 1971 his father died, and things got harder. His stressed mother would often beat him, and around this time a man known to the family sexually abused Stevens.
This was told to Social Welfare in May 1973, but no action was taken for two weeks before the man was arrested and jailed.
Stevens started getting into trouble, and became addicted to sniffing petrol.
In December 1975 he told a social worker he'd been sniffing petrol 18 months, and couldn't stop.
Aged 14, he was admitted to Manawaroa Unit in Palmerston North Hospital.
There he was physically abused by staff and patients, and spent a night in a seclusion cell.
After a week, on December 22 he was transferred to Lake Alice Hospital Child and Adolescent Unit. He remained there until April 15, 1976.
Over that time staff were violent towards him, and he was seriously sexually assaulted by other patients, who were about 18 or 19 years old. Sometimes this involved groups.
These assaults were recorded in notes as "sexual activity" between him and other boys, and instead of support he was punished.
Adult patients also exposed themselves to him. He also commonly saw physical and sexual assaults on other patients. He believed he suppressed a lot of memories.
"Lake Alice was freaky. A strange place, with strange people, like a loony city. A lot of bad things happened to me, at Lake Alice."
He was heavily medicated often, primarily with Paraldehyde and Largactil, which had terrible side effects, and was threatened with electroconvulsive therapy, although this never eventuated.
"I knew other patients, friends of mine, were being given ECT and other medication, as punishment. I heard other patients screaming while they received ECT. I remember lights flickering on the walls when the staff gave the shocks."
He was also often placed in a seclusion cell.
Social Welfare had been in touch with staff at Lake Alice while he was there, and social workers told about the sexual problems. Even his childhood abuser tried to take him away from Lake Alice, but no actions were taken.
He returned home on April 15, and the same problems started again. Despite this, his Social Welfare records stopped three months later.
These experiences heavily impacted his life, from difficulties trusting people and making friends and maintaining relationships, to drug and alcohol abuse to forget.
"I get flashbacks about my time in care. I had nightmares for a long time, too."
He first contacted Cooper Legal about making claims against the Crown in March 2017, with the assistance of his health worker.
It had taken so long because of his inability to read or write.
In May 2018 he discovered his health was deteriorating, and Cooper Legal was able to fast-track the work.
His claims for his neglect from MSD and time at Manawaroa were processed relatively quickly, and included settlements of $10,000 and $6000 respectively and legal aid cover, along with apologies.
For the abuse at Lake Alice, he received nearly $82,000 and a letter of apology from the Prime Minister and Health Minister.
In the letter it stated actions at Lake Alice were "highly inappropriate and disgraceful even if judged by the standards of the day".
"They should not have happened. We very much regret that they did."
Stevens said it had taken him a long time to confront what happened to him, but in opening up to his whānau felt "like a weight had been lifted off me".
"The things that happened to me as a child were really bad. My experiences were so hard to deal with that I shut myself off from a lot of things as an adult.
"The reason I am sharing my story now is because I want to support the work being done to shed light on what happened to us all in care. Hopefully this will also help others in getting a fast and meaningful outcome for their claims too."
His issues had been resolved relatively quickly, he said, likely because of his failing health, and with the compensation he had bought an RV so he could live closer to hospital for his chemotherapy.
This week's hearing was originally planned for March, but was postponed because of the first Covid-19 lockdown. Stevens died in April from cancer.
Commissioner Sandra Alofivae thanked Hill for reading on Stevens' behalf, and asked her to convey to his whānau and health worker their deepest condolences and heartfelt gratitude.
"It is important they know their brother, their father, their whanaunga, contributed to the work of our commission."
'I was like livestock ... I didn't belong anywhere'
On Wednesday the commission also heard the affidavit of Chassy Duncan, who spoke via AVL from the Falkland Islands.
Duncan, of Ngāti Kahungunu, born in 1989, spoke of how he was passed around over 20 different placements, and abused at most.
"I was like livestock, getting moved from paddock to paddock. I didn't belong anywhere, you know? I was just a stranger in everyone's homes."
His mother was 18 when he was born, and his father not around then nor when he was growing up.
She endured financial and addiction issues, and contacted Child, Youth and Family Services (Cyfs) in 1993 for support.
The following year he was placed in their custody, and sent to live with relatives. Over three years he said he was beaten and psychologically abused.
In 1997 he was placed in two more homes, and was sexually abused by a teenage girl in each location.
Between 1998 and 2000 he moved between about 17 placements, being abused and neglected in most.
During this period he had a stint at Waimokoia School, a residential special school, and was physically assaulted by staff. He also went to Puketai in Dunedin, where he was sexually assaulted by a male staff member and an older girl.
In December 2000 he was sent to Kingslea in Christchurch, where he was assaulted by staff and other kids, and placed alongside teenagers for youth justice matters.
"Kingslea was pretty scary. Violent. What really stands out for me is how we were assaulted by the staff. I was pretty young. It was not something I should have been going through."
He was in CYFs custody until 2008, when he turned 18.
But in the years up to then he was moved all around the country, where he said he experienced all kinds of violence and abuse, particularly in Mohaka where he was sent six times between 2003 and 2006.
"It was training ground for jail. My thoughts, the way I reacted to people, was never really the same after that. Made me more violent. I think I was in jail pretty soon after that."
The impacts of these experiences had affected him greatly through his life, including several stints in jail.
He experiences anxiety, has trouble in relationships and big trust issues.
"The details I have set out about my childhood is only a small part of my experiences. It is really hard to talk about all my experiences in a way that people understand."
He contacted Cooper Legal in 2007, while he was in jail, about making a claim against the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Education for the abuse he endured while in their care.
Since then there has been much back and forth between his lawyers and the ministries, which are still fighting his claims.
"I've struggled to work through this all and am finally starting to see that I'm not what those people always said I was. I'm capable of changing myself. A big part of that final process will be for MSD and MoE to take responsibility for what they did to me.
"I am doing all I can to be a good father to my kids and to give them the sort of childhood I never had. I need this all to be over so that I can move onto the next chapter in my life, for the sake of me and my kids."
Where to get help:
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
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