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Riley's story

‘I’ve been speaking to Corrective Services for the last 10 years and for the last four I’ve been pushing to get counselling. Nothing. All they said is, “Deal with your drug use”. I said, “Listen I know what drugs do. That’s not my issue”.’

As a Year 7 student, Riley started earning extra money by doing gardening work at the home of Noel Dreyfus, his De La Salle high school art teacher. Many times over a six-month period in the 1980s, Dreyfus encouraged Riley to use marijuana and then sexually abused him. ‘When he took me to the sunroom, he abused me there, but the main [abuse] happened in the bedroom.’

Riley said he didn’t tell anyone what was happening, but one day he stole a classmate’s wallet in the hope he’d get caught and someone would ask what was wrong. He was discovered as the thief and punished, but no one asked him why he’d done it.

At 14, Riley befriended a sex worker who lived near his house. She warned him off using drugs but after seeing her inject heroin one day, Riley persuaded her to do the same for him. ‘The way she described it was, “You don’t remember anything”.’

He said he was addicted from the first shot and within a short period of time, had started stealing to pay for his habit. Over the course of several decades, his parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to people he’d stolen from as well as to doctors, specialists and rehabilitation service providers. Throughout it all, Riley didn’t disclose the sexual abuse to his parents or any health workers.

At the time of speaking to the Commissioner, Riley was serving a lengthy sentence for armed robbery. He’d been in jail many times for crimes associated with trying to get money for heroin and had completed a variety of skills and behavioural programs, none of which he said had addressed the abuse. He’d once spoken with a psychologist who promised regular appointments, but the next time he saw her was eight months down the track and he didn’t see her again after that.

In the 2000s, Riley disclosed the abuse to a prison chaplain who notified New South Wales Police. The police interviewed Riley and organised a pretext telephone call between him and Dreyfus, during which the ex-teacher admitted the abuse.

‘What pissed me off – ‘cause the phone call only lasted three minutes before I broke down – was how vivid he remembered everything, how I heard in his voice he was getting off on that conversation I was having with him. I was a mess … I started to use drugs again, copping the dirty urines, and you’re trying to explain yourself like, “Yes, I understand I’ve got to get punishments for having a dirty urine”, but [prison officers] don’t give a shit. I was left alone and what are you supposed to do when you’ve been using drugs since the age of 14 because of this? What upset me the most was how he remembered it.’

A few years later, Dreyfus was charged and convicted of child sex offences. He changed his plea to guilty only after hearing the recorded phone call, and was sentenced to two years jail.

‘I stole a washing machine once and got two years, and this bloke destroyed my life and he received two years’, Riley said.

Riley thought telling his parents about the abuse might help them understand his drug-taking and criminal behaviour, but he doubted he ever would because ‘it would kill them’. He’d told his sister and brother-in-law who were very supportive and had helped him through the process of Dreyfus being charged, attending court each day when Riley wasn’t allowed to.

In the early 2010s, Riley received $10,000 in victims of crime compensation. He is now thinking of pursuing civil action against Dreyfus even though he’d been advised by a solicitor he was unlikely to be successful. He is also considering taking action against the Catholic Church.

‘I don’t want to make excuses for my heroin use or whatnot but obviously I hate this past that I was dealing with.’

‘Would I be here today if it didn’t happen? Maybe I would have had a different future. I dream about that. If I didn’t use heroin and come to jail where would I be? Would I be successful like my brothers and sisters? I just want to sleep. I want to go to sleep and forget about it all. For the last 10 years I been in jail I haven’t had that sleep ‘cause obviously I’ve had no heroin. Maybe if I get help I’ll get the sleep I want.’

‘All I can hope for now is to get the help I need before I go home in a couple of years so I can get there for my mum and dad, you know. Otherwise I’ll be one of the stats of having an overdose.’

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