‘I don’t think I had a good childhood, a good upbringing … My parents were young and they had nothing and I paid for it, I really paid for it. I was locked up in the shed when I was seven overnight. I was hit if I didn’t achieve my grades.’
Ronn said being hit by his parents felt normal to him. It seemed to happen to most of his school friends as they grew up together in the 1970s. Kids were not supervised or controlled, but they were severely punished if caught doing something wrong.
When he was about 12 he and his friends would regularly hang out after ‘groups’ on the weekend. Ronn described those afternoons as ‘a sort of free for all’ with no supervision and nobody in authority looking out for them. It was here that Ronn first met Bryce. Bryce was a few years older than Ronn and his friends, and carried a sense of power about him.
‘The people that were there with me, their situations were very similar. People wanting attention and someone that answers and listens to them. I think consequently, when it was going down – I want to say I’ve never blamed him for that, I never did, I don’t know why, I still don’t blame him. I don’t. I just felt that we as kids, there was no one there looking for us.’
Ronn was sexually abused by Bryce many times.
‘Here’s someone a little bit older that actually listened to a younger person, who was giving you a soda or a cookie – obviously that’s the grooming part – but as a kid I don’t know that.
‘And you weren’t alone. Because that’s the other thing, there were groups, there were kids that saw what was going on all the time. There’s no doubt about it. I told the police when they came to me, I said you give me a yearbook from the year below, the year above and my year, I’ll point to them. There’s heaps that will never ever come forward.’
When Ronn was in his early teens, Bryce involved him in a minor theft. Ronn said he felt forced to do it and, even though he was only the lookout, he became the scapegoat. When his father found out he beat him.
‘The teacher was never wrong … your father was never wrong and your mother was never wrong. And if there was a problem with that you’d pay for it. So I never told anyone because what would be the point? It would be pointless for me to go and tell my parents I was being physically abused and forced to steal … because he’d come to my house and kill me otherwise.’
Ronn felt that his parents had let him down badly, he felt humiliated and shamed, and he became suicidal. The school told his parents they thought it was no longer suitable for him to stay there, and he was sent to a state school.
Being sent away meant the abuse stopped, but Ronn said the new school was very violent and had no rules, and he soon got heavily into drugs.
He’s felt the ongoing impacts of the abuse and subsequent disruption to his education ever since, saying he’s never reached his full potential and never found where he wanted to be.
‘I’m nothing and I feel it … Unless you’ve been in that [situation] where you’re getting belted or you’re getting touched or you’re getting thrown out of school, where you’re drug-fuelled, or you’re standing on a roof going “Shall I do this?” it’s very, very hard to ever solve. I don’t think it’ll ever be solved. I think this will go on forever.’
For many years Ronn thought about getting revenge on Bryce.
‘Now if I had that one bullet it wouldn’t go to him. The guy who’d get that bullet is the guy in charge of that school, he’d be getting it first.’
He said the school and related organisations were run like a private family business, employing relatives over outsiders, and that the school knew what was going on and allowed it to continue.
‘They don’t get it. They’ve still got that mentality of “Let’s hide them”. Because that’s what we do as a group. It’s just not on. We’re not in war anymore here.’
Bryce was later convicted and jailed for child sex offences, which Ronn is glad about. ‘But then again he’s sick too, he was probably abused as well as a kid, who knows what happened to him. But he was left to be that way.’
Ronn said the school should have put Bryce in a position where he was no danger to children.
‘But they didn’t care less, they knew this was going on. I will look in that [principal’s] eyes and say you will not lie in front of me and in front of this Commission and say you didn’t know what was going on. You can’t do it.
‘And then I’ll tell him when he does lie, but it’s okay, you can lie to the Commissioner but when you go up to God, if you are the believer that you’ve claimed you are, He’ll tell you. God knows … Which is why I’m angry with him, I’m not angry with Bryce. I’m angry with him because he allowed it to go for a while.’
He said nothing has changed at the school or in the community, and the only thing that will make them change is legal action.
‘But you know when they’ll see it, they’ll feel it financially, if they get locked up for a bit. If they get put in the shed at night, see how they feel.’