Brian grew up in a happy family in the 1960s. He was a keen sailor; he and his father were members of the local yacht club. ‘Lyle used to turn up at the yacht club – Mr Helpful’, Brian told the Commissioner. ‘He and dad became mates … We all thought, “What a nice man”, and I got invited for a weekend away on his yacht.’
Brian was 12 years old. Lyle Joyce was in his early 40s, very charming, and as interested in ships as Brian was. On their first weekend away another boy, Tom, and his father joined the crew of the yacht. All went well and everyone had a good time. A few weeks later Brian was invited out again. Tom was there as well, but Joyce was the lone adult.
Straight away Joyce turned the chat to sex. ‘There was this kind of innuendo. It was remorseless, but at that age you just think that’s what people talk like.’ Brian began to think Joyce was a little strange, but ‘I really quite liked having access to a yacht’.
Weekend trips became regular events. Sometimes Tom joined them, sometimes Brian sailed alone with Joyce. The innuendo continued, and then one Saturday afternoon Joyce joined Brian in the water for a swim.
‘He just sort of run his hand under my speedos. At the time there was no real significance to it to me, I wasn’t old enough or mature enough. Then there was a bit of groping and there was a bit of, “Oh, is there anything you need to know about sex?” I didn’t know anything about sex.’
Brian did not tell his parents about the incident. Joyce had groomed them as well and was considered a family friend. ‘My dad was keen for me to go sailing with him because he knew how much I loved sailing, and how do you say no to your dad, who doesn’t know the situation? So you get trapped.’
‘It just went on and on and on … I wasn’t assaulted in the sense of raped or anything, I was just remorselessly groped and hand down the speedos and I couldn’t walk past – it was a small boat – I couldn’t walk past.’
Brian felt immediate impacts. At school ‘I went from top of the class in everything fairly smartly … I just went down and down and down and down.’ The abuse went on for a couple of years.
‘I don’t know if I dealt with it or I just pushed it to one side.’ Eventually Brian moved away to study. He grew into an attractive, athletic young man, and girls took a strong interest in him. ‘We’d go out once or twice and they’d all want to have sex. Which was perfectly normal.’
‘I found I was unable to have sex. And I found there was something in my brain that’s thrown the switch … I just couldn’t do it.’
‘The more I tried the less I could.’
Brian quickly ‘connected the dots’ to his childhood abuse. ‘It was actually quite traumatic and I became quite introverted and didn’t go out unless I had a lot of alcohol in me. There’s that song, “He’s Always in the Kitchen at Parties”. That was kinda like me.’
Brian threw himself into sport at a high level, training hard every day. It helped him to stop thinking about the childhood he’d lived through.
‘Tim Winton said it beautifully. “You’re living in the eternal present tense”.’
A ‘very patient’ woman came into Brian’s life and helped him with his sexuality. They married and began a family. Brian threw himself into various careers with the same intensity he practised sport. He was a ‘workaholic’ but, ‘I was always swapping careers. I could never settle and I could never do group activities’.
Brian continued to drink heavily all his life.
He did not disclose his history of abuse for nearly four decades. He wasn't prepared to go to the police nor even confide in family members for fear his father would hear about it. Brian has always been afraid of his dad blaming himself for what had happened.
In the mid-2000s Lyle Joyce was charged with various child sexual assault offences and sent to trial, and eventually jail. The charges were not related to Brian’s abuse, but Brian was terrified his father would see the reports of Joyce’s trial and deduce that Brian had been a victim too. He feared his dad would take his own life if he knew. In an effort to protect him, Brian rang his sister every day of the trial and asked her to check if there was anything about Joyce in his father’s newspaper.
‘That’s when I really fell apart.’ Brian sought psychiatric help. He disclosed his abuse for the first time to people in the HR department at his work. They told him he didn’t have to talk about it and brushed him off. Brian felt he had no one to turn to. His work deteriorated and he lost his job.
Since then life has been a struggle. Brian discovered music therapy while being treated in hospital. He has continued that privately until the present and believes it has saved his life. He has learnt to deal with his feelings of guilt and once again, begin to put the past behind him. For that reason he is reluctant to press charges against Lyle Joyce, nor does he wish to seek compensation.
‘I really want to close the door and walk into the sunset … I know I can’t shut the door, but at least close it a bit. That would be my preferred option.’