Alan grew up on the New South Wales south coast in the 1970s. He was part of a small family and his mother was more religious than his father. He was ‘a bit of a drinker’, Alan told the Commissioner.
Alan was an altar boy at their local church when he was about nine. Father Bowdler was the parish priest. One day Alan was having difficulties with his robe before the service. Father Bowdler was there with him.
‘I was gettin’ dressed and I couldn’t do me robe up and he was helpin’ me. And he’s touchin’ me and then he touched me private parts. Then I sort of nudged away. And I didn’t know what was going on. I was really young.’
A short while later Alan was serving on the altar when he fainted and his mother had to take him outside.
Alan didn’t tell her that Bowdler had abused him. He just said that he felt hot.
He didn’t go back to church after that. ‘I just didn’t tell no one.’
Alan also had a family member who had been touching Alan and his cousins.
‘It just sort of mucked me up in the head.’
Alan increasingly got into trouble at school. He wouldn’t listen or sit still, he took to drugs and drinking and eventually, after a period of wagging school, left altogether at the beginning of Year 9.
No one at school or at home tried to understand why he was acting up.
Alan worked with his dad and the abusive family member for a while but he started feeling paranoid. He thought that they were talking about him.
He saw a doctor about his feelings of paranoia and has been diagnosed with PTSD. He’s also on anti-depressants since losing custody of his children and feeling like he didn’t want to associate with anyone.
Alan, now in his 40s, has spent his life blocking out the sexual abuse. He hasn’t had counselling. Disclosing to the Commission was the first time he has told anyone what Father Bowdler did to him.
Alan is currently in prison. He’s dubious about reporting the abuse to police but is open to the idea of seeing a counsellor.
Were there any counsellors at his high school that might have noticed that something was wrong?
‘No. No one. That was back in the olden days.’