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Dylan James's story

In the mid 1960s when Dylan was 10, and attending the same Catholic boys’ school in Western Australia that his father, uncles and brother had been to before him, he was sexually assaulted by one of the Brothers.

‘I actually adored the guy. He was one of my favourite Brothers … He was one of those roughhouse Brothers. Always used to play around with you and stuff like this.’

The abuse occurred once, at the school. Dylan wasn’t close to his mother and she died in recent years still with no knowledge of what had happened to him. However, his father knew. Dylan told him on the day of the assault.

‘I reported it to Dad. My father came to school and had a meeting with the Brothers … The end result of that I don’t know …

‘It’s just the way it was. Dad never sat down with me after … He never sat me down afterwards and said “Well, I’ve spoken to him. This is the decision”.’

The Brother continued to teach Dylan, and the only difference he recalls is that his teacher had more ‘disdain’ for him. Eventually, the Brother was moved on to another school. Dylan doesn’t know if the abuse had anything to do with that.

For Dylan, the impacts of the assault were immediate and ongoing and derailed his life from the professional and financial success enjoyed by other members of his family. ‘I’ve battled with this all my life.’

Soon after the sexual abuse happened, Dylan began drinking.

‘So my life spiralled into alcohol. I was drinking at school, after school. I used to take a change of clothes, get out of my school uniform, dress into my civvies and hit the bars … and get absolutely liquored up …

‘Drinking was what I did right up till my dad died, I suppose, and that’s when I gave up drinking. Been dabbling in drugs, then had a heroin habit, alcohol, in and out of … yeah.’

Dylan also started getting into fights, and ended up being expelled from the school where he’d been abused and three schools he went to after that. He made repeated efforts to end his own life, the first time when he was 10. After another attempt in his early 20s, he began seeing a counsellor. He had seen many counsellors before, but this was the first one he disclosed the abuse to.

‘He was a nice old guy and I felt comfortable enough for the first time.’

The sessions came to an end when Dylan got into trouble and ended up in jail. He had a few more spells in jail after that. He has lived in different parts of Australia and overseas, and has found it hard to stay in work.

For the past few years Dylan has been receiving a disability pension. He has made many efforts to engage with psychological support, but it didn’t work out.

‘I’ve been having ups and downs and been to see so many psychiatrists through the years … I just never found anyone.’

Now in his 60s, Dylan has finally connected with a psychologist who he trusts. Sam, who came with Dylan to the Royal Commission, went to the same school. ‘It was a relief to actually get someone to listen … He understood the Brothers and the straps and the belts and the hierarchy and all that sort of stuff ... I felt comfortable [with him].’

Disclosure continues to be difficult for Dylan. He revealed his abuse to his GP for the first time not long ago. ‘When I finally told her about it, it was like a lightbulb moment for her. She just went “Oh, that explains this and this and this …”.’

He is yet to tell his wife, to whom he’s been married for many years. She has never known why Dylan didn’t want to have children. ‘[It] was because I didn’t think I could protect them. I knew what happened to me. I knew what was out there and what could happen, and I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.’

Dylan told the Commissioner that there are complicated emotions holding him back.

‘The shame, the embarrassment of it happening … because you get slightly aroused and, you know, you’re thinking “Did I enjoy that? What am I, a fucking homosexual” …

‘So it’s the shame, the embarrassment and that’s a big thing with talking to my wife. You can’t just say “I want to tell you this and that’s it. Don’t ever ask me anything about it ever again”. So what’s the point in telling her … Then the questions will come and she’ll start trying to psychoanalyse me, “Why, when, what?”.’

This would only cause more trauma, so ‘I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, me telling my wife.’

Dylan has engaged lawyers to help with a civil claim, but as far as he knew little progress has been made. He is angry with the school and the Church and felt an apology from them would be of no value. Only an apology from the Brother who abused him – now dead – would have been meaningful. ‘But the only thing with that [would have been], whoever put him and I in a room, [would have had to] make sure there [were] no knives or guns around, because there would have been blood spilled.’

Dylan told the Commissioner that it is drugs, alcohol and his wife that have kept him going till now. His sessions with Sam help too, but lately, he’s become a hermit. He gets up, has a shower, takes his medication and then lies down on his bed. He used to read and watch TV but these days, ‘I can’t concentrate long enough … Nothing sticks anymore.

‘I thought it was just a phase I was going through, but it’s been getting worse and worse.’

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