‘Over the years I wanted to do something about it. You put it off and keep looking after your kids and move on, and you just close the door … Over the years I have tried to find a number, and that was one of the issues I’d like to bring to you, is that people like me, when we want to try and do something, there’s nothing. I’ve even rung the police up - had a few beers, got upset and because it’s not an immediate thing and because I’m so old - you know, it’s like years ago - you don’t have that contact. There’s no hotline where you can ring and talk to people about it.’
At 13 Rylan was sent to a boys’ training home after he was caught doing a break and enter. In the early 1960s the home was divided into various sections and he was assigned to live in a dormitory of 30 boys overseen by Kevin Wetherill. Rylan’s original sentence was six months detention, but as time progressed he saw no way of getting out.
A short time after his arrival, Rylan had become Kevin Wetherill’s ‘staff boy’.
‘I found myself polishing his shoes in the bathroom, correcting his underwear and all that sort of thing’, Rylan said. ‘He’d stand up on a stool and I’d brush him down … Before you knew it I was in there dressing him up and playing with him, rubbing him down, and from that it got into rubbing his penis. Before I knew it I was telling him about the sexual experiences that I had with my mother and three sisters, which I’d never had, but it was, I thought I was talking to him, encouraging him. I actually thought it was me doing it, but 15 years later I started to realise what had happened.
‘So in the six months, I gave him hand jobs and all that sort of stuff and fantasising with my mothers and sisters. It just kept going and going and going. I was supposed to be out of there within six months and every day at school they’d call out the names of the boys who were leaving and my name never came up, never came up. So he kept me there for a year, and one day I went in and I just got sick of it and I told him I’d been telling him lies all this time, thinking that I was the one that was at fault. And I think I did some aggressive things, went a bit crazy. And within two days he let me out.’
Rylan told the Commissioner he continued to feel guilty for making up sexual stories about his mother and sister. He’d seen a psychiatrist on and off over the years who’d ‘tried to open these doors up’, but Rylan never wanted to go into detail. ‘I’m very good at shutting the door’, he said. ‘I move on.’
As an adult Rylan built up a full life, marrying and having children and working first as a tradesman and later in the corporate sector. He’d wanted to join the police force but didn’t think with his charge sheet that he’d be accepted. A turning point in his life had come at 15, he said, when he appeared again before a magistrate on criminal charges. At that point it was likely he’d go to juvenile detention in Tamworth or Gosford, both places synonymous with a boy knowing ‘you were gone’ and ‘in the system’, and would likely end up a career criminal. The magistrate told Rylan he didn’t know what to do with him.
‘He said, “I’m going to let you off, if I get your word that if I let you out today, you’ll make something of yourself”. And that afternoon I walked free. And I don’t think I ever walked over a dog without I didn’t pick it up.’
In the late 2000s Rylan saw a current affairs program that documented a long history of sexual abuse of children by Kevin Wetherill, who’d moved from the government boys’ home to another run by a charitable organisation. Rylan rang the television station the next day but they were no longer interested in the story. It was another of the tentative steps he’d made and added to the time he’d rung a police station after ‘a few drinks’ to tell them he wanted to make a complaint. In that case too, he hadn’t taken the matter any further.
Rylan recommended that a phone number be made known so that adults could call to talk to someone about sexual abuse they’d experienced as children.
‘Not for me now. I’m way past it’, he said. ‘Even my good psychiatrist can’t go into it and he admitted it. It’s all too hard. Not his words, but every time he opened the door I would really get upset. Today I got really upset driving here this morning. I had to sit down this morning and go through a lot of it [but] I think I dealt with it quite okay.’