It was the early 1990s and Rhys was 12 years old when he became the target of bullies at his Marist Brothers school.
‘I found myself distanced from the pupils at school and found myself aimlessly walking around the school yard and playground by myself for months on end. During this time I found solace in a teacher and principal, Brother Myers.
‘He chatted to me a few times on the playground over a few weeks and I thought nothing of it other than comfort in a time of need. Shortly after the school ground discussions I was called to his principal’s office during school time.’
Rhys soon became distressed by what Myers did to him in the office.
‘I was asked to sit on his lap in school uniform and talk about the meaning of life, which led into sex education and my feelings for girls to name a few.
‘Whilst he would openly chat to me sitting on his lap I noted his erect penis around my buttocks and anus which would last for minutes at a time. He would also have both his arms tightly around my abdomen almost in a bear hugging sense which restricted my ability to move or do anything.’
This abuse happened around five times over the next few months. ‘I am lost for words as to why I allowed this to happen. At such a young age, I could only think fear would have been the driving mechanism.’
Rhys told his parents about this abuse shortly afterwards, but did not get the support he expected. He was surprised by ‘the way that they took it as being something small – and they wouldn’t let me go into much detail’.
As an adult Rhys has experienced depression. He has never sought any counselling but his wife, who knows what Myers did, is supportive.
For the time being Rhys’s focus is on his family, including his two young children. ‘I guess going forward I just want to make sure that I’m in the right frame of mind, I guess, trying at the moment to raise my kids, just to make sure I can continue to do that.’
It is hard for Rhys to trust other people around his children, particularly men. ‘It’s a very big trust thing for me. Like I don’t want to mollycoddle my kids, I want a sense of awareness and protectiveness, but I also want them to experience the outside world. But for me at the moment it’s learning to find that coping mechanism, to find trust in people, to also not wrap them in cotton wool but to let them understand ... That’s the hard part for me.’
Rhys recognises that he may want to deal further with the impacts of the abuse later on. ‘I think my 30s has been concentrated on my family, but I thinks it’s more the long term – once the kids grow up, once the kids move out, what will transpire then?’
Although Rhys did not report Myers to police, in the 1990s he was charged with multiple accounts of abuse against other boys. He entered a guilty plea and received a fine, which was paid by the Church – ‘in my eyes it was a very lenient prosecution’. From what Rhys read on forums, Myers’ punishment from the order seemed to be ‘sweeping schools after hours’.
Rhys has been ‘tracking’ Myers over the years, and read that he recently celebrated a significant milestone as a Brother. ‘That was gut-wrenching. There was a picture of them all with the silver jubilee medallions, and just to know that the Marist Brothers actively, I wouldn’t say support, but how can a guy that’s been prosecuted still live in the Marist Brother practice?’