"My name's Kevin Raymond Young and I'm 52 years old." There's something desperate about the way Young says it, as if he's clinging to the wreckage of his identity. Young was 17 when he was sent to Medomsley detention centre in County Durham. He'd already had a tough life – taken into care at two, sexually and physically abused by those who were meant to look after him – but this was something different. As soon as he starts to tell his story, he's in tears.
His experience of Medomsley in 1977 has shaped, or disfigured, his life ever since. He was convicted of receiving stolen property – a watch his brother had given him; the first he had owned. The police asked if he knew where it had come from. No, he said. Could it possibly have been stolen, they asked. He thought about it – well, yes, possibly. He was sentenced to three months' detention.
The morning after he arrived at Medomsley, Young was lining up for breakfast when he was picked out of the queue by Neville Husband, the officer who ran the kitchen. Young later discovered that Husband had asked for his file – he wanted to know everything about him; most importantly, whether he had family who were likely to visit him. Young was one of a handful of new inmates sent to work in the kitchen with Husband.
"There are two things that are important to successfully sexually abuse somebody," Young says. "By successful, I mean without being prosecuted. One, anonymity or silence – if you can't carry out your act without people knowing, you're not going to be at it very long. The second thing you need is a victim who's 'reliable'; a reliable victim is someone who's already been abused to the point where, if they do speak out, who on Earth is going to believe them? And who on Earth is going to believe Kevin Young, the pauper's son, who has been in and out of care, who's a knife-wielding thug, a bully?" That is how a number of care home reports described Young, but he insists he was a quiet, over-obedient boy. "The truth is, nobody would have believed me."
Via Ngozi Odochi (Godwell) Nwokocha