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Bryce David's story

‘I had a great relationship with Mum and Dad. I had a pretty good childhood growing up, to be honest, and apart from going to the [Catholic college], I guess I was pretty lucky in some respects … When I went off the rails I was basically thrown off my whole family, more or less. It’s only [recently] that I’ve actually spoken to some members of my family again.’

Bryce’s family wasn’t Catholic, but in the mid-1970s he was sent to a Catholic college in regional New South Wales. His parents thought that it would benefit the budding sportsman and that a private education would be academically advantageous for him. Because Bryce was put up a year in primary school, he began high school when he was 11.

Brother Allen was one of the sports coaches and, ‘unfortunately for me, he took a liking to me. I wasn’t aware that I was being groomed at the time, but I was’.

One afternoon Brother Allen asked Bryce to help collect some gear from a sports shed. ‘Before I knew what was happening … my head was face down on a table … He then tried to masturbate me … [but] he wasn’t getting anywhere … because I simply wasn’t mature enough to have anything happen …

‘[This] seemed to infuriate him … and after sticking his thumb inside my anus, he then proceeded to rape me … I had no idea what had just happened … I remember thinking that I must have done something wrong and I was being punished … because they had a pretty strict regime when it came to discipline there.’

Two weeks later, Bryce was on detention by himself and Brother Allen came into the classroom and did the same thing to him, ‘this time much more severely and the pain was just indescribable. I remember bleeding severely …’

During this second rape, Bryce recalled Brother Allen whispering in his ear ‘how lucky I was that he was doing this and it was supposed to be something good, according to him’.

There was another teacher at the school, Father Warren, who ‘used to take people on bush walks … I can clearly remember … the first or second day I was [there] I had a senior student tell me, “Don’t go on a bush walk with Father Warren” and it never registered with me at the time … [So when] a weekend opportunity came up … I jumped at [it], thinking it was a great thing’.

Bryce was alone at the campsite with Father Warren. ‘He came in [the tent] and violently attacked me … [I] was raped anally and I had to perform oral sex on him … He [then] simply walked out of the tent without saying a word … I was absolutely shattered … I cannot describe … that feeling is so … I then went and sat in a creek.’

Father Warren came back later and screamed at Bryce to get out of the water. ‘He dragged me into the tent and raped me with a foreign object of some sort, perhaps a bottle … He then proceeded to anally rape me again and I had to perform oral sex on him. He was extraordinarily angry that he’d found me in the creek.’

When he was walking out of the bush with a towel between his legs because of the bleeding, Bryce remembered that his father was coming to pick him up and ‘that terrified me … because I thought he’d find out, or he’d know something was wrong’.

About two weeks later, Father Warren once again raped Bryce. ‘After [this] attack in the science room, he never come near me again.’ Bryce doesn’t know why the abuse stopped. He suspects that either the two priests found other victims, or that his sudden growth spurt meant that they were frightened that he might start to fight back.

Bryce reported the abuse to one of the lay teachers at the school. ‘I thought he had written things down. I can since only assume that he filed it the way most things were filed then … in the bin, because I never heard anything about it.’

Bryce told his parents that he wanted to attend school with his friends, so he left the college mid-way through Year 8. At the local state high school, Bryce became ‘a little bit more wary of people, that’s for sure. I was a very friendly person up until that point, but I became quite angry. I wasn’t someone that you would cross …

‘Academically, it actually turned in the opposite direction. I threw myself into anything and everything that I could read. It was a form of diversion and something that I’ve used again and again over the last [approximately 40] years.’

When Bryce was in his early 20s a personal tragedy led to a mental breakdown, ‘the first of four major breakdowns … They were severe, to the point where the last one, probably two years ago … I couldn’t work anymore to divert myself … I’d used every drug known to man … I left my … [wife and children] and … completely went off the rails’.

After becoming dependent on heroin and cocaine, Bryce ended up in hospital two years ago, under the care of an excellent doctor and was put on a methadone program. This was the first time he had spoken about his childhood sexual abuse, and he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

All his adult life Bryce has suffered from recurring flashbacks and nightmares, but when he saw a program on television about the Royal Commission, they became worse. He ‘just went downhill. I completely lost it’. Bryce tried to take his own life twice, and was contemplating a third attempt when an intervention was carried out and he was hospitalised.

Bryce is now living in a facility where he has access to professional help when he needs it, and he is working on addressing the problems that stemmed from his childhood sexual abuse.

Bryce commented to the Commissioner, ‘I’d hate to be sitting there doing your job … it must seem never-ending … and I’m not sure whether the people that are out there are going to be aware of just how big a problem it is or was, and still is, perhaps’.

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