In the 1960s, when Rodd was four, he saw his father murder his mother. He and his siblings were made state wards after this and placed in residential care. ‘To this day I don’t feel safe in my world.’
Rodd and some of his brothers were sent to an Anglican boys’ home in Brisbane. At the home he was repeatedly sexually abused between ages seven and nine by Ray Merrick.
As a volunteer carer at the home, Merrick had sleeping quarters at the home. Rodd was aware Merrick was sexually abusing other boys in the dormitory too – and that other boys, possibly including his older brothers, knew Merrick was abusing him.
Not long after the abuse started, a group of boys went to disclose it to Len and Rita Levin, who were in charge of the home. The couple were themselves feared for their violence and physical abuse.
When one of the boys went in first to speak to the Levins about Merrick’s abuse the others could hear him being belted for ‘telling lies’. No one at the institution took action against Merrick. Telling the police was also out as ‘we were very scared of Merrick’, who was training to be a police officer himself.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that Rodd reported Merrick’s sexual abuse verbally to a Queensland police internal affairs officer. He believes Merrick left the police service soon after, although no charges were laid at that time.
Five years later he was approached by an officer in a taskforce investigating other allegations against Merrick from multiple boys at the home and elsewhere. His statement led to Merrick’s committal for trial in relation to the sexual abuse against Rodd and other boys.
‘Some of the men were only at the point of first disclosure about their abuse and it was really hard for them to be witnesses. All of us were different in how the abuse had affected us, and in our reactions and strategies to try and deal with our trauma.’
The survivors were told they were to be part of a class action but instead the cases were split and ‘weakened’. ‘At least 15 boys had been abused in the home by Merrick, yet no jury had ever got to hear the full picture about his offending.’
In the early 2000s Merrick stood trial on charges of indecent dealing and sodomy in relation to other boys who had been abused at the home and elsewhere. He was acquitted at his first three trials and convicted at a fourth. Merrick’s subsequent appeal was dismissed and he served three years in jail.
‘But he received no sentence for abusing me’, Rodd said, after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided not to proceed in further trials. ‘I did not ever get my day in court to tell a jury what Merrick did to me.’
Rodd was told in a single phone call that it would be hard to get another conviction against Merrick for the same type of crime, and the DPP did not have the money or time to fund another case.
Rodd was crushed that some ‘similar fact’ evidence had been advanced in the fourth trial but not in the others. Another survivor suicided ‘straight after’ his court experience and ‘not being believed’.
Additionally, Rodd feels ‘let down’ by the police, the DPP, the legal system and ‘ultimately by the state government which is responsible for our laws’. He believes police did not make ‘enough effort’ to discover which of the 15-odd boys who had made allegations could corroborate abuse of others.
After nearly seven years of applications Rodd received ‘hush money’ of $40,000 from the Queensland Government after the Forde Inquiry and lesser ex gratia payments from the Anglican Church which he feels perpetuates, with its confidentiality clauses, the ‘secret’.
In young adulthood Rodd used denial and avoidance to survive, then alcohol, prescription medications, cigarettes and gambling. He became a workaholic and experienced ‘severe nightmares every night’.
In his 30s he almost suicided. But he had a virtual epiphany the night he decided to end his life, when he surprisingly slept for eight hours, unaided by drugs.
When he woke he ‘experienced this flash of light’ and a feeling of hope that led to him forgiving, either face-to-face or on the phone, all the people who had hurt him and who he had wanted to kill – starting with his father and including Merrick and the Church.
Rodd gradually found ‘I could actually live rather than just keep surviving’. He engaged with psychiatrists, doctors and social workers, private counsellors and therapists, spiritual healing workshops, natural healing workshops and retreats.
‘I’ve been able to find forgiveness for the people that raised me, the people that beat me, my father for putting me in the institutions … for killing my mother, witnessing that sort of stuff.’
Divorced, he has a new partner and no longer hides his emotions, takes drugs or suffers with depression, anxiety or panic attacks.
Rodd’s recommendations include support for sexual abuse victims that includes free dental and health services, perhaps via a card similar to those used by defence service veterans.
He also suggested each state should appoint a standing, independent child sexual abuse victims ombudsman and a ‘separate court’ with the same powers as a criminal court but staffed with ‘skilled’ personnel trained about sexual abuse and trauma.