Rodney Owen's story

‘In my case, compared to what we’ve seen in the media, this feels so minor but it’s still an issue that stayed with me and it’s certainly affected me.’

Rodney grew up in comfortable, suburban Sydney in the 1950s and 60s. There was not a lot of affection in the home. His parents had grown up in a poor, austere environment and sex was not spoken about.

Rodney was a shy, nerdy kid and bullied a lot by his peers. When he was somewhere between 11 and 13 Rodney went with his scout group to camp overnight at a maritime facility. In the evening an adult in official clothing, someone who seemed to be an officer, took Rodney to a truck. As the two of them sat in the front, the man played with Rodney’s genitals for 15 to 30 minutes.

‘I was flattered and horrified by the attention all at the same time.’

The next night, Rodney can’t remember if he sought the man out or just came across him but the man showed no further interest. ‘I have a vague recollection, actually a strong recollection of him being warned off by a mate. You know, “Don’t do this” sort of thing.’

Although unsettled by the event, Rodney told no one. His contact with the Royal Commission is the first time he’s spoken about it.

Shortly after the scouts incident there was more sexual abuse, this time during sports club activities. On a couple of occasions, an older boy of about 17 or 18 made Rodney fondle his erect penis. ‘This horrified me, I have to say, even more than the other episode because I was exposed to an erect part of his body, to which I had absolutely no attraction.’ Again Rodney told no one.

‘The product of both those episodes with a naive young boy, as I was at the time on sexual matters, was to immediately sexualise me.’ Rodney had not reached puberty but became interested in ‘matters erotic’. He also started sexually experimenting with kids his own age. As a result, he’s had sexual issues that have stayed with him throughout his life.

As a teenager Rodney became very religious. His faith became a crutch and a refuge from the bullying and sexual abuse. It meant he never got into alcohol and drugs as that was against his religion. His faith is still an important part of his life today.

Although a successful career man, Rodney has had life-long feelings of inadequacy as a result of the emotional and sexual abuse he experienced as a child. ‘It screwed me up, basically.’ He has been on anti-depressants for years, has difficulty sleeping and suffers a number of stress-related health conditions.

He has feelings of isolation from those around him. He was a distant father and his relationships with his children have suffered. He recently told his wife about the sexual abuse but as a man of few words who likes to retreat to his ‘man cave’, it was a brief conversation. His wife, however, responded with great tolerance.

‘It’s been a privilege to be here, I have to say’, Rodney told the Commissioner. ‘This has been for me one of the most – invigorating is not the right word but – releasing processes. It’s released a lot.’

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