Father Joseph Ryan was a trusted friend of Leland’s family. Even when they moved from Melbourne to Queensland, Ryan stayed with them when he was sent interstate on a retreat.
Leland told the Commissioner, ‘The Church does this when they need to be sent away because of past bad behaviour. The Church knew he was an abuser’.
Over a period of six years in the 1960s and 70s, Leland and his two brothers were sexually abused at their home. ‘I remember Ryan staying for days at a time, going from my bed to my brother’s bed on different nights.’
Leland was too frightened and ashamed to say anything. ‘In those years, nobody talked about child abuse, it wasn’t on the radar. I never told anyone – it was our secret. I know if I did tell I would have been punished.’
In Grade 8, a priest at school also began abusing Leland. He tried to stay away but the priest wouldn’t leave him alone. ‘He kept telling me he loved me’, Leland said. It was only by leaving school in Grade 10 and joining the navy that he was able to escape from the priest and Father Ryan.
‘I was robbed of my education because of this abuse and distraction’, he said. ‘Nothing can replace those most important years of my life.’
Soon after starting his naval training Leland was offered hard drugs, which he took to help with his feelings of shame and guilt. He drank heavily and became self-destructive.
‘I was an alcoholic and punching steel walls, breaking bones in both of my hands, hitting myself across the head with pieces of wood, which was happening on a regular basis … I was a very unstable, guilt- and shame-ridden person … Between the ages of 15 years old and 35 years old I wasted my life on drugs and alcohol.’
Leland got married and left the navy to work in the mines. He said he was very isolated during that time, taking drugs, drinking alone and not mixing with other people. He said his wife suffered because of his neglect and left him for another man.
Leland finally realised he needed help after he was arrested for a minor incident and had a total breakdown. ‘I was a hollow man’, he said.
While searching for the two priests – to ‘give them a piece of my mind’ – he found out they had abused other children. Leland contacted police but was told, because of the statute of limitations, the prospects of a good outcome were unlikely. They also said that the details would have to become public, which put him off because he didn’t want his mother, who still went to church every day, to know about the abuse.
Leland went through the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process in regards to the priest at his school and received $52,000. Over $10,000 was immediately deducted for Medicare and legal expenses.
After being sacked from his job, he suffered another breakdown and was placed in a mental health facility. He’s been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and severe depression.
‘Now I have bad days and really bad days’, he said.
‘I find it difficult to form meaningful relationships. I have very little trust in people. Certain things trigger things in me. But I’m under control. I’m drug free, I don’t drink. I still have deep feelings of shame, guilt and major depression, hallucinations, hearing voices and no faith. I’ve even seen the devil.’
Leland is now reclusive and feels he’s unemployable because of his mental health record. His main hope is for better financial redress and he’s seeking a review of the Towards Healing settlement. The money is very important to him as he has no source of income.
‘No counselling can heal me’, he said. ‘I’m sick of telling my story. I want to move forward. The effects are permanent. But a more generous amount of compensation can give me things to help me find peace and relieve the everyday stress of living.’
Leland is also very keen for the Royal Commission to look at secondary victims, as he feels his suffering has traumatised his son. ‘I’m supposed to be someone he looks up to and he looks at me with sorrow … I hope you can help me and my brothers and other families move forward.’