24 Sep 2020

Man suffered sexual abuse in psychiatric care

9:02 am on 24 September 2020

A man who suffered abuse while in psychiatric care in the 1970s didn't live to present his story to the Abuse in Care commission of inquiry.

Prison jail cells bars incarceration generic

File photo. Photo: Unsplash / Matthew Ansley

The Royal Commission is holding public hearings in Auckland.

Patrick Stevens, was scheduled to meet with the commission in March but Covid-lockdowns put paid to that. He died in April at the age of 59.

The name is a pseudonym given to him by the commission.

The evidence he wrote was read to the hearing by his lawyer, Amanda Hill.

Stevens was sexually abused at a young age and got into all sorts of trouble, including being addicted to sniffing petrol.

He ended up in the Manawaroa unit at Palmerston North Hospital at the age of 14 where he was mistreated.

''Some of the staff were really rough and more than once the staff pushed and shoved me around. There are other times when I had fights with the other patients at the Manawaroa unit because the staff weren't watching over us properly.''

He said staff verbally abused him and threatened to send him to Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital.

It was a threat that came true.

While he was diagnosed as having a behavioural disorder, he was not mentally ill.

He described Lake Alice as a freaky place.

''I was seriously sexually assaulted by other patients who were about 18 or 19 years old, about a dozen times. Sometimes groups of patients were involved in the assaults,'' he said.

Stevens was also physically assaulted by staff.

''The nurses pushed me, kicked me and slapped me. Sometimes the nurses held me down and injected me in the bum. That was a punishment for running away. The nurses then dragged me to a seclusion cell.''

He was also physically assaulted by other patients on a weekly basis.

''These patients strangled me, threw me on the ground and threw freezing cold water on me.''

Stevens was also threatened with electro convulsive treatment, ECT, but he was never given it.

''I knew that other patients including friends of mine were being given ECT and other medication as punishment. I heard other patients screaming while they received ECT. I remember the lights flickering on the walls when the staff gave the shocks.''

He said his experiences in state care scarred him for life.

''I get flash-backs about my time in care.''

''Apart from the weather I don't listen to the news or watch tv because I know something might turn up that brings my past back. I had nightmares for a long time too.''

Stevens lived long enough to eventually receive compensation for his time at Lake Alice and a letter of apology from the Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern.

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