As a baby Tyson was put into out-of-home care after his mother was unable to look after him. His first placement lasted for about 12 years with Tyson eventually running away because he ‘was being treated like Cinderella’, and made to clean and look after the house.
Homeless and living on the street, staff of the Department of Child Protection (DCP) in Western Australia organised for Tyson to be admitted to a youth mental health facility and from there he was placed into the care of a woman named Denise.
Although this was the official care arrangement, Tyson mostly stayed at the home of Denise’s friend, Raelene. He was there for about four years from the early 2000s, and from his first days in the house, Raelene kissed him on the lips and coerced him into having sex with her.
‘She was 40 and fuck’, Tyson said. ‘She was beautiful but, and she said to me, ‘cause I was homeless, she couldn’t have me there but she got her friend to sign the paperwork. And her best friend was only signing the paperwork so I could live at Raelene’s. So I was never living at Denise’s.’
While he was in this placement, Tyson started going to a Catholic school near Perth where he met Doctor Lyon, who he thought was a priest, counsellor and religion teacher. One day Lyon asked Tyson to ‘confess me your sins’ and within a short period of time began to sexually abuse him.
‘It went from you know, touching and then, “Take off your clothes. Have a shower in front of me”. So he’d take me to an isolated room, then he would say that, “In African culture men kiss men on the lips so you need to kiss me on the lips”. I felt awkward at times but I thought, oh yeah, this might be true.’
Tyson stayed at Lyon’s home on several occasions and woke to find Lyon performing oral sex on him.
Tyson told the Commissioner that he disclosed Lyon’s abuse to Denise who suggested he report it to WA Police.
‘I said, “No, no, I don’t want to do it”, ‘cause Doc was my best friend at the time.’
Lyon was never threatening, but Raelene had once driven Tyson to the site where the body of a murdered child had been found and suggested he might meet the same fate.
‘She said, “You know that young boy that was buried in the pine forest?” She said, “That shit’s going to happen to you if you ever tell anyone”.’
Tyson thought that Lyon and Raelene knew the other was abusing him because they were friends.
About eight years ago, Tyson reported Lyon to a teacher at the school. He was told that eight other students had also made allegations of sexual abuse against Lyon. Despite this, he didn’t think he was believed.
In 2016, he reported Raelene’s abuse to police but wasn’t initially taken seriously.
‘They tried to rub it off and say, “Oh fuck, you must have been having a great time. Why do you want to report it?” And I turned around and said, “Hey fuck you” to the cop. I said, “Listen, if I was a 40-year-old man and it was a 14-year-old girl, I would be labelled as a bad guy, but this is a 40-year-old woman and I was a 14-year-old boy. Like, who gives a fuck what gender she is? She was in the wrong. Then he went quiet and said, “Oh, we’ll keep carrying on with the statement”.’
On his 18th birthday, Raelene gave Tyson fifty dollars and he ‘pissed off back to the desert’. He then ‘moved around like a gypsy’ for 10 years, staying with friends and extended family.
‘I lived in Aboriginal communities, but then I went to Alice Springs a little bit there. I had jobs, a lot of jobs.’
He’d have ‘great relationships’ with women, he said, ‘but then I’d leave and they’d probably be pissed off’.
Tyson spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he was serving a sentence for a violent incident he’d committed against his partner who’d tried to leave him.
‘This is a good wake up call for me’, Tyson said. He was now accessing mental health support and had participated in a prison program aimed at stopping family violence. He’d confided to a friend in jail that he’d been sexually abused as a child and was upset when the friend told other inmates, but then ‘some of the big-timers’ had disclosed their own abuse to him. ‘And no one gives a shit anyways.’
Just before he’d been incarcerated, Tyson had reported Lyon’s abuse to police. ‘This year I reported it to [a Perth] police station, to the detective there. He’s going to want me to sign the declaration of truth, [but] not yet, ‘cause if I see a cop in jail I’ll be classed as a snitch and get flogged in jail.’
He said that since being in jail he realised that he’d often acted as if still a teenager. ‘The way I’ve dealt with it, basically right up to the point where I met my girlfriend, and even right up until now … like I used to always think that I’m still 14, still carrying on like it was back then, like still waiting to grow. But then now I’ve realised that from talking to my psychologist – he said, “No, that’s a normal feeling, to still feel you’re still that young”. He helped me be aware of that.’
Tyson said he wished a worker from DCP had looked at his placement more closely and that someone could have stopped Lyon taking him out of class.
‘The teacher that had me in the classroom should have really said, “No, this can wait. He’s going to stay in class and do his studies”. I remember sitting in my social studies classroom. I remember going, hey shit I’m really enjoying this class. I don’t want to leave. What’s this priest fucking doing? He kept coming in and pulling me out, but I actually didn’t want to go out you know. So in regards with him, like at the school to keep that safe, like teachers pulling other students out of classrooms, yeah they shouldn’t be doing that and like it should be like check it through. But most of all this stuff, isn’t it like common sense? Because at the time the teachers weren’t even really caring; they really trusted the priest.’