Alan was born in Queensland in the mid-1960s. His mother was a staunch Catholic who, despite his protests, forced him to serve as an altar boy. His father, who was ‘never there to bounce stuff off’, was physically abusive. He sometimes gave Alan a ‘whipping’ which left him with noticeable injuries.
Alan attended a Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers. The culture was one of ‘physical domination’. ‘You were that scared of the Brothers … I was petrified of them’, Alan said. ‘You were belittled at every opportunity. You were always brought down … to a level … where you could be easily dominated.’
Recalling the ‘vicious’ principal, Alan said, ‘I just can’t believe the stuff he done to us as kids ... punching me in the mouth, and slamming my head into a thing … You come out, and you’ve got blood coming out everywhere, and you’re completely, shirt ripped and everything, and you’re thinking, “What did I do to deserve that?”’
Three men at the school sexually abused Alan at different times. Being a ‘meek and mild’ child, he believes that he was identified as a ‘perfect target’ who ‘wouldn’t say much’.
In Year 4, Brother Barnaby screamed at Alan when he didn’t cry after receiving the strap. Later, in the library, Alan was ordered to remove his shorts and underwear and bend over, and he was strapped again on his bare backside. Alan still didn’t cry, so the Brother told him he needed further punishment. Alan then felt ‘a searing pain’ in his anus. After this finished, he was told to dress and get back to class.
When he got home, Alan noticed blood in his underwear and bruises on his body. He knew that ‘everyone knew’ what was going on with Brother Barnaby, and that what had happened to him was wrong. However, he was too scared to tell anyone, especially his parents who he believed would belt him if they knew he’d been punished.
About two years later, Alan was sexually abused by Mr McGuiness, a lay teacher who befriended boys rather than berated them. The abuse occurred in Mr McGuiness’s flat after he had given Alan and his friends a lift to the local creek. He fondled the boys as he washed them in the shower. Then, to check that they were clean, he made them spread their bum cheeks while he masturbated behind a kitchen bench.
Another time, while swimming naked on a school camp, at Mr McGuiness’s urging, Alan saw the teacher masturbating behind a tree. A fellow student told him that Mr McGuiness had molested him while washing him in the camp shower. Alan knew that others knew about Mr McGuiness’s abuse because he was shifted to another school. ‘He was just a frigging terrible person.’
In his early teens, Alan was sexually abused by Brother Pember while making a confession in the Brothers’ residence. To pay for his sins, the Brother tried to make Alan fellate him. When Alan refused, the Brother raped him. At the time, Alan believed that God’s forgiveness would result from the punishment because the Brother was acting on God’s behalf.
Alan then got tattoos to make himself less ‘good looking’, and to send a signal that said ‘stay the frigging hell away from me’. He said he also got into trouble constantly ‘because I thought … okay, if I’m in trouble, I won’t be sexually abused’.
Prevailing mindsets about homosexuality were obstacles to disclosure for him. ‘I haven’t been a willing participant in a gay act … but yet I think I’ll be judged that way and I’ll go to hell’, he said. He was also aware that anyone who looked gay might have the ‘absolute Christ’ flogged out of them because ‘poofter-bashing’ was a ‘common thing’ back then. Even 20 years later, in the 1990s, his fear of being labelled gay stopped him from disclosing to police who contacted him during an investigation into the school.
Alan left school in Year 10, but took ‘a long time to grow up’. Taught to believe that there ‘was always a violent solution to everything’, he would simply punch someone until they agreed with him. His relationships with his wives were good, although not close ‘in a physical sense’, but his relationship with his mother was marred by a ‘deep sense of betrayal’. Alan thought, ‘You forced me to go there, you left me there, and I frigging hate you for it’.
After more than 30 years of silence, Alan surprised himself with a sudden disclosure to a journalist. ‘I just said, “I was molested as a kid” … I never knew her from a bar of soap … I just had to let it out.’ He then told a local politician. ‘I don’t even know why I told him … I just felt the need to … I just had to tell.’
Alan has provided the police with two statements, but accepts that prosecution is unlikely. Despite the ‘bloody bad legacy’, he is ‘not in the business of ruining lives’. He instead focuses on finding practical solutions to problems, seeing the ‘light on the horizon’, and ditching the ‘crap’ beliefs that stop him seeing who he really is.
He thought that child sexual abuse ‘is always going to exist’, but believes children can be empowered to be part of the solution by giving them ‘the right information, and the right tools to avoid it if they can. Or if it happens, the right to speak out and identify it … quickly, rather than be suppressed, and oppressed’.