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Wyatt Ben's story

‘You don’t take a child’s innocence away from them. That’s the one thing you don’t touch.’

In the mid 1980s, when Wyatt was 14, he and his family moved to Australia. His stepfather was an angry man and Wyatt caught him beating up his brother on several different occasions.

Several months after moving to a regional town in New South Wales, Wyatt and his brother moved out of home. Wyatt lived with a friend for a couple of years. They attended the same high school and did sports together at the community centre as Wyatt was an avid sports player, and was keen to learn and play all the games.

At the community centre, Wyatt came into contact with a counsellor, Neville Sanders, who was in his mid 30s. Sanders was always around the boys, at sports practice and games.

In the late 1980s, when Wyatt was 15, Sanders asked him if he could participate in a drugs and alcohol study. He was told that the study would be a part of a thesis Sanders was writing at university. Wyatt was given a consent form, but because he wasn’t living at home he couldn’t get his parents to sign it. Despite this, Sanders said not to worry and that he should come along anyway.

Wyatt went to Sanders’s apartment, a fair distance away from where he was living. He was invited into a room where a camera had been set up on a tripod and an unknown man was waiting for both of them. It was unsettling because Wyatt hadn’t been told that Sanders would have another man present for the test. He was also concerned that there weren’t any other ‘participants’ waiting to do the test as well.

Wyatt learnt that the unknown man was Sanders’s flatmate. They both gave him copious amounts of alcohol and tested his performance with basic tasks. Wyatt remembers his vision becoming blurry while Sanders helped him lay down on the bed. He recalls Sanders and the man standing over the bed while masturbating themselves. They also took turns to masturbate him and perform oral sex. Wyatt was so intoxicated he couldn’t stop them. He passed out.

‘I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t remember anything. Sanders asked me if I remembered anything. I said no, and then he said that I did well on the test. I left and that’s when it came back to me. Throughout the day I was like, “Hang on, that wasn’t right”. I couldn’t tell anyone.’

After this, things changed for Wyatt: he started using heroin to make him forget the memories, and committed several criminal offences to pay for the drugs. He became an angry teenager who often got into brawls, and spent time in a juvenile jail before moving to an adult prison for a couple of years.

At age 21, Wyatt had been out in the community for several months. He and his girlfriend moved to another state to start a family. He found work that he enjoyed, married his girlfriend and had a couple of children.

Wyatt had an addiction to heroin but has been clean for the past decade. He describes himself as a bitter and angry person who does not trust people and doesn’t use technology. Wyatt fears that the video footage of himself will resurface. He has a constant need to be viewed as tough and has been violent in the past to live up to this image.

‘I take responsibility for my actions, but I can see that it wasn’t my true self who did it. That’s what happened because of what happened to me.’

In the late 1990s, Wyatt first told his wife about the abuse he experienced as a teenager. He reported Sanders to the community centre a few years later, but nothing was done. Wyatt also called a hotline for help because he wasn’t coping well with the flashbacks, but this wasn’t followed up. Wyatt’s first full disclosure was to the Royal Commission.

Wyatt never reported Sanders to the police, but expressed his interest in doing so during his private session. He is concerned that Sanders could be, or used to be, a part of a large paedophile group. Wyatt feels that Sanders needs to be brought to justice.

‘I want to see people held accountable for their actions.’

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