Alejandro's story

Alejandro grew up in a devout Catholic family, with an alcoholic father who was frequently violent. He attended Sunday school at his suburban Adelaide church in the mid 1980s, and became an altar boy when he was around 11 years old.

The parish priest, Father O’Rourke – who performed Alejandro’s baptism, first communion, and confirmation – began grooming him at this time. ‘I look back at it now, what he used to say and what he used to do, and how I used to get pats on the back for a good job done ... But I just felt that was normal.’

This contact soon became increasingly sexual. O’Rourke started to put his hands under Alejandro’s robe, touching his bottom and fondling his genitalia.

‘I just stood there. Just in shock. I didn’t say anything. All I did was just sit there and just look at him. And him just look back and just sort of shake his head, just like “Shhh. Shhh”.’

Similar abuse happened a number of times, always when no one else was around. ‘I don’t know if it was happening to the other [altar boy] or not. I was even too scared to say it to him, and say, “Look, he’s touching me, what should I do?” I just sort of ... kept my mouth shut.’

Alejandro was made to touch and rub the priest’s penis too. ‘As the time went on, every Sunday was the same thing ... It slowly just grew and it grew and it grew.’ He remembers that O’Rourke was always gentle with him, especially in contrast to his violent father. ‘I didn’t know what to feel.’

After six months Alejandro told his mother he could no longer be an altar boy. She asked why but he just said he didn’t like it, and did not disclose the abuse. ‘I look back at it now, I was surrounded by domestic violence ... I knew how my father was, and I was so scared to say anything. Because the way he was so violent ... I thought “Well, I’m not saying anything”.’

Alejandro worried ‘if I say something to them, it’s just going to blow up ... I thought, if I say something then, I thought that my father gonna go hurt the priest. He’s gonna go hurt him, and then I’m going to feel bad’. His father is now deceased, and although his mum ‘is my rock’ he has never told her about O’Rourke.

He stopped serving at mass, but still attended church services. O’Rourke would look at him from the pulpit in a way that make him uncomfortable, though he never tried to touch him again.

As Alejandro got older he realised that he was sexually attracted to both men and women, and wonders if the abuse by O’Rourke influenced his orientation. ‘I’d say it had a big effect on me, because it changed my image, or my perception on sexuality. I felt confused, I felt somehow as I grew a bit older into teens ... I felt that I somehow had an attraction to older men, for some reason. And I’m thinking, “What the fuck”...

‘I felt, why am I having this feeling? Why now, why this? Sometimes I would go have a shower and I’d sit on the bottom, on the floor in the shower, for probably an hour. And just thinking, “Why am I thinking this?”.’

Alejandro thinks some of this attraction may also be to do with his relationship with his father. ‘I never got the love and affection from my father ... he was very abusive to my mother, he was abusive to me ... very violent, very aggressive.’

When Alejandro was in his 20s he was still ‘in the closet’ about his same-sex attraction, but went looking for male sexual partners outside of his relationship with his girlfriend. He started having sex with an older man who then wanted more from him.

The man became increasingly possessive and demanding, stalking Alejandro and insisting he split up with his girlfriend. This situation ended in a very violent confrontation, for which Alejandro received a lengthy prison sentence. ‘I’ve realised what happened with the crime itself. I recognise it was wrong. I’m remorseful, I’ve realised it was the wrong thing to do. I think in a fit of rage, of being upset and having so many things bottled up, in me ... I realise now, I’ve ruined my own life.’

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