Rhys Brendan's story

‘I learnt not to be angry with Mum and Dad because they, as Mum says, Mum’s said heaps of times, that she didn’t expect, she didn’t know that … She just doesn’t talk about it … When she gets drunk she’s like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that was happening. I just wanted you to get a good education”.’

Rhys has fond memories of his early years of school on the south coast of New South Wales in the late 1980s. When he reached high school age, he was sent to a boarding school in Canberra, where he was sexually abused by two older boys.

Rhys told the Commissioner that he found it hard to settle into his new school. ‘Didn’t like that. It was quite scary … very disciplined.’

Rhys slept in a dormitory with other junior boys, but the senior boys had smaller rooms, with two beds in each. Two of the seniors would invite Rhys into their room, where they would make him watch them perform oral sex on each other.

‘They tried to get me to do it … I didn’t do it, but … once in the shower, one of ‘em … come in and actually forcibly … penetrated me.’

Rhys recalls going into the boys’ room, ‘at least 10 times’. He was afraid that if he refused to go in, they would bash him. He told the Commissioner that although he never got bashed, he was picked on quite a lot.

‘I hated it. I asked to leave for ages … I ended up sleeping in the nurse's … up in the hospital, so when it was bedtime I wasn’t there … I think I used to use asthma as an excuse … I don’t know what they do to people … they fuck people’s whole lives.’

Rhys told the Commissioner that the school guidance counsellor had a room across the hall from the older boys’ room, so there is a chance that he may have been aware of the abuse, but did nothing about it.

Rhys left the school towards the end of Year 8 and went to his local high school, which was ‘different. It was alright. I was a bit awkward after … definitely the quiet one … wasn’t a cool kid’.

Rhys was diagnosed with clinical depression and has been on and off medication since he was about 14 or 15. ‘I’m still medicated now … jail’s brought … I’ve kind of forgot about it all … all the abuse, till I was put back in sort of the same area, same sort of set-up.’ Coming to jail for the first time was ‘a bit of a worry … just with showering and stuff, going to bed’s a bit of a worry, actually … but, I’ve sort of dealt with it’.

Rhys hasn’t been able to work for 10 years, because of his depression.

‘Most days I don’t feel like … It’s hard to even get up, let alone work five days … That’s what got me in here, really. I was really depressed this year … cut my wrists and you know …’

Rhys has ongoing issues with drugs and alcohol, and has tried to take his own life several times.

‘I’ve been seeing a counsellor on and off for years … different ones and years ago … when I was trying to deal with all this stuff … six, seven years ago or something, I’d call MensLine and all that’. When he is released from jail, Rhys will have the support of his family, and he intends to continue with counselling to deal with the abuse he experienced at school.

At the end of his session, Rhys told the Commissioner, ‘The kids of the future will thank you’.


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