‘My reason for coming here is to find out what happened to that four-year-old boy.’
Rickey was born in the mid-1950s to Catholic parents in New South Wales. Like his siblings, father and grandfather, he spent some of his childhood in an orphanage. He believes that this was at the request of his mother who had difficulty coping with the alcoholism and violence of her war-veteran husband.
Rickey was a toddler when he was placed in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy, and has almost no memory of his short time there. ‘The only memory I have of the orphanage is what I'm going to describe to you’, he said. It was a ‘horrific’ memory which was very painful for him to recount.
One night, while the nun in charge was having dinner, Rickey entered a toilet cubicle and discovered a teenage boy raping a little girl. After twice asking ‘What are you doing?’ the teenager grabbed Rickey and another little girl and pushed them into the next cubicle. He told the girl to remove her underwear, and told Rickey to kiss and lick her bum.
Rickey described to the Commissioner how he was made to rape the little girl, watched by the ‘dorm woman’, a staff member in charge of putting the children to bed, whose role seemed to be to stand guard.
The teenager frequently abused children in the cubicles.
‘This used to happen every time this man was in the toilet at night time. It was a regular thing’, Rickey said. The dorm woman told him to say nothing.
The teenage boy later injured Rickey so badly that he was hospitalised for weeks. Upon his return, a man who treated him in the infirmary also dragged him into a cubicle. The dorm woman who was ‘standing cockatoo, watching for the nuns’, told the man ‘You can't touch that one. He's going out on the weekends. He may be fostered out soon’.
The man pushed Rickey away and dragged another boy into a cubicle. Rickey ran and hid under blankets in his dorm, but could hear the boy crying out ‘I don’t want to’. He also heard the woman yelling, ‘Hurry up, the nun will be back soon from dinner. Go and come back later when she's gone to bed’.
This abused boy slept in the bed beside Rickey, and when he wet the bed, was slapped by female staff and called a ‘good for nothing little bastard’. ‘That four-year-old boy would look into my eyes and I would look into his eyes while he was getting flogged by the women. He never shed a tear. He stared into my eyes until it stopped. I didn't stop looking at his eyes until it stopped.’
Rickey later found the boy on the bathroom floor. He was sick and injured. Rickey got help, and told a nun about the women who hit him, but was too frightened to report the man who raped him. The boy disappeared from the orphanage. No one mentioned his name again. Rickey suspects the worst – that the child molester was also a child murderer.
About a year later, Rickey went to live with a foster family. He ‘lost it’ when he saw nuns, and was asked by girls to be their boyfriends, and tried to burn his school down. When he hit puberty, the horror of the abuse hit him, and he was a ‘mess’.
‘I felt guilty that my friend was raped when the rapist had his hand around me first, and I felt guilty about having sex with a four-year-old girl. This has just destroyed, over the years, my ability to have lasting relationships with females, girlfriends etc, even friends, mates. I still have a lot of trouble trusting anyone at all. It pushed me into a life of drug addiction, crime, self-loathing, anger, depression.’
Rickey later learned to tell no one about his experience. Friends either said ‘You’re blessed, mate’ or ‘Don’t let him near the kids’. Psychiatrists, drugs counsellors and solicitors either shut him down or said ‘We can’t do anything about this’.
Rickey thinks that counselling is a ‘waste of money’, and would rather have ‘fair and just compensation’ that will give him some ‘security’ and is not restricted by the ‘madness’ of the statute of limitations. ‘We're not to blame that we couldn't report it 10, 15 years ago, 40 years ago. Nobody wanted to know’, he said.
Rickey has a supportive partner, but choses to live alone in a rural area. He feels that his ‘future is finished’, and is ‘angry as all hell’ that successive governments and church leaders have either done nothing about child sexual abuse or covered it up. While the Royal Commission is a good thing, he feels that people will take no notice. ‘We’ll go back into society and we’ll still be treated like sub-humans’, he said.
Only one thing will make a real difference to his life. ‘To fix me psychologically before I die, if I could find out what happened to that four-year-old boy, you don't know how much that would help me. I'd be a different person.’