Selwyn became a train enthusiast as a child. By the time he was 12, he loved working with locomotives and began volunteering with a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to their restoration.
Selwyn was one of several boys who regularly volunteered with the trains, supervised by the carriage manager, Paul Andrews. ‘We started going there on weekends and, as I grew to enjoy it, started going there and staying the night and stuff. And this guy Paul Andrews sort of said he’d look after us and stuff.’ Andrews quickly ‘befriended the family’ by looking after Selwyn on these trips, often giving him presents and money.
While on overnight trips, Andrews and the young volunteers would sleep in the carriages. It was during one of these trips that Andrews approached Selwyn in the bathrooms.
‘He just bought me a shaving kit and stuff like that. I wasn’t even old enough to shave … He’s like come up behind me and started showing me how to do it, and he just started harassing me. And yeah it progressed from there for quite a few years.’ For the next six years Selwyn was routinely abused by Paul Andrews. The abuse included oral and anal rape.
Selwyn did not particularly enjoy school. ‘I was never good at school. I was disruptive I think.’ His behaviour became progressively worse until his stepfather asked him what was wrong. But, because of shame, Selwyn never disclosed the abuse, and the matter was not pursued. He left school and took an apprenticeship, while still volunteering on the trains.
By the time he was 18, Selwyn had successfully detached himself from Andrews. ‘As I got older I distanced myself and got stronger and got away.’ Andrews was banned from volunteering with the trains but Selwyn does not know the reason for this. Eventually Selwyn stopped volunteering and didn’t see Andrews again for another eight years.
‘I saw him again when I was about 26 or 27. And he turned around and said “Please don’t go to the police force. Don’t tell anyone” – ‘cause he’ll kill himself. I just thought “What are you telling me this for?”’
In his mid-to-late 20s Selwyn’s mental state gradually declined until he was placed in a psychiatric institution. He started to experience intrusive memories and insomnia, and began abusing drugs to cope.
‘I smoked weed. When I stopped I just kept on having memories and vivid flashbacks. And I couldn’t sleep. And for six months I hung in there. I … got to the point where it just drained me emotionally but I couldn’t handle it or deal with it.’
Not long after, Selwyn met and married Lucinda and they had a child together, but Selwyn was still burdened with feelings of shame and embarrassment. ‘I was more embarrassed to tell people about it. Because as I got older I sort of thought, “Well I’m not gay”. You know what I mean?’ It wasn’t until he learned about a family member who had also been abused that Selwyn gained the courage to come forward.
‘When I was younger and that I think I was more ashamed and afraid, ‘cause I didn’t know how people would think. Whereas once I heard about [the family member] it gave me that strength and that courage … I thought “Well I’ve gotta speak up myself”. I sort of felt “Well should I or shouldn’t I?” I didn’t know how I felt. Had something wrong happened to me? I was still confused.’
Selwyn told Lucinda and his family. Although he found it difficult, he made a report to the police and discovered in the process that Andrews had other victims and an investigation was underway. ‘Because I’ve probably never been on the right side of the law for most of my life it was a little bit hard to speak out. I probably didn’t say enough. They were trying to urge me to speak more but I sort of, I still was in that “I feel yucky, don’t wanna talk about it” stage.’
Shortly before Andrews was due to be arrested, he suicided.
‘I felt like I sort of had a hand in his death. But the police said “It’s probably the best thing that could have happened to someone like that”. It’s sad because he needed help and he didn’t reach out. Or maybe he got what he deserved. I don’t know. I just don’t wish it upon anyone I know, or kids.’
Selwyn recently engaged the services of a lawyer in order to seek compensation from the institution as well as assurance that this type of abuse will be prevented from occurring again. ‘I was there for nearly 10 years. Worked thousands of hours there. I loved it, it was a passion and I still think about it today … I probably would like an apology and just would like to think that they’ve got some sort of policies in place to help that or prevent it.’
Selwyn recently attended his first counselling session, which was a positive experience for him. Although he still has difficulty discussing it in front of his wife, the support he receives from his family and friends has ‘made me stronger. It’s like I just feel a lot more positive about life …
‘I’ve got good family and friends that I can talk to and that … Emotionally it’s good having kids in my life to help me deal with it … I’ve been – felt ashamed to talk about it in front of my wife. Today is probably a step for both of us … I feel like a weight’s off my shoulders.’