‘I ran away from home a lot. I was a bastard of a kid, I’ll admit that. I wasn’t like an evil kid but I couldn’t sit still. I had ADHD. I wasn’t over-bad, but in school I used to walk out of class, just wander around. My parents were good parents.’
At the age of 10, Ryce was play wrestling with a friend when the friend’s father came in, held Ryce down and raped him. The man then tried unsuccessfully to get his son to rape Ryce.
By 12, Ryce had started criminally offending and using drugs and alcohol. His school life had been mainly through the Queensland private education system but he was expelled from most schools, the last when he was in Year 8 in the early 1990s.
About that same year, he was picked up drunk by police and taken to a youth detention centre. In the car on the way there, Ryce was rude and belligerent to the officers who, when they arrived, suggested to the guards that Ryce had drugs on him and may need to be strip searched.
‘I didn’t know what a strip search was at the time. I said, “No”, and I played up and they held me down and stripped me off, and they couldn’t find drugs so this big, tall guy put his finger in me to try and find drugs I suppose, I don’t know.’
Ryce said that while he was in the detention centre he and other boys were photographed by guards while they were naked in the shower blocks. He described himself as a ‘bottler’ of emotions and found it difficult to talk about his experiences, particularly the assault by the friend’s father. He spoke from prison where he was serving a sentence for drug offences.
Years earlier he’d stopped using drugs and found a good job. He was living with his fiancée and children in Darwin when a chance encounter with the friend from his childhood sent him reeling. ‘Everything went down’, he said, and he began drinking heavily, using drugs and fighting with his fiancée. He left and returned to Queensland and then went into a drug-fuelled crime spree that ended with his incarceration.
He’s due for release in early 2017 and plans to reunite with his fiancée and children. While in prison he’s done courses and wants to start counselling to work on his issues of anger and the difficulties he’s had in relationships and with trusting people. He’s spoken briefly with a counsellor, but hasn’t talked a great deal or disclosed the abuse due to the shame he feels and because, ‘I didn’t think anyone would believe me’.
‘It’s something I’ve lived with for a long, long time and it’s hell to talk about it. I’ve started to talk about it with mates and in classes where you know, I’m doing a drug course now and it’s just hard. Brought up a lot of stuff and got a bit personal, I suppose. It’s helped a bit, talking about it.’
Ryce said as a child he might have spoken to someone like a youth worker but only if they were independent.
‘Speaking for myself, like the trust issues that I have, if I knew that they worked for any kind of government agency or anyone like that there’s no way I’d go. I’d get nowhere near them … I think that there should be more services around for kids that, no matter’s what is wrong with them [there] should be services there to help.’