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Alex Stephen's story

Both of Alex’s parents ‘hated me from the get-go. They were as cold as steel. Violent towards each other and me … We lived remotely, for the benefit of neighbours not hearing the sick, psychotic alcoholism every day … I never felt safe at home with my parents’.

Alex told the Commissioner, ‘It got to the point where I told these two, “You’d better stop touching me”, because they were brutal with their violence, and I threatened their lives … When my parents said, “Okay … we’ve got this boarding school for you to go to” … I thought, “I’m going to be safe here”.’

Alex arrived at the Christian Brothers boarding school in Western Australia in the mid-1970s. Soon Brother Falconer started to groom him: giving him chocolates, allowing him to break rules, and giving him extra privileges. He then began to be very ‘touchy’ with Alex, and insisted on watching him and instructing him how to bathe while in the shower.

In a written statement, Alex noted, ‘This is when I knew shit was up and not right. I told him to leave me be. “I wash how I want.” He left, and came back with a cane rod. Little Red Riding Hood had turned into a furious, very angry, scary man. He whipped me, and then some’.

Later, Falconer came into Alex’s room and tried to cuddle him, and told him that he was a beautiful boy.

Alex became wary of the Brother and ‘would shiver on a hot day when I saw him’. He recalls Falconer’s increasingly physically and sexually abusive behaviour. The Brother would turn from ‘calm to out of control, out of breath, cussing and spitting … right in your face’.

When Alex told Falconer that he didn’t want him drying him off after swimming, the Brother came to his room that night and ‘punched me in the face and belly until I was down, crying. He said, “No one wants you. You are nothing. No one does anything for you but me”, and he could be a lot nastier if I resist again’.

One night, ‘the fat monster woke me up on top of me, straddled, 115 kilograms … He was in my face. “I want to look after you. Make everything right for you here”.’ Alex managed to get Falconer out of his room, but before leaving, the Brother punched him in the face.

A couple of months later, Alex once again woke up to find Falconer on top of him. This time, the Brother began choking Alex, and he passed out. When he came to, ‘my genitals were in a lotta pain. My arse felt like someone had [tried] to tear them apart … I sat, stupefied, sickened and very, very angry’.

Alex told the Brother that if he ever came to his room again he would ‘cut his fucking head off’. The Brother told him that he had just had a bad dream, and had fallen and hurt himself.

Falconer stayed away after that, but Alex believes he moved on to another student. This boy was ‘outgoing, a happy kid and then you just saw him clam up like a shell … and I could tell something had happened to him, but I never spoke to him about it’.

Alex phoned his parents to ask them to take him away from the school. He told them why, but his mother laughed at him. He also spoke to the school social workers about Falconer. One of them, ‘just blank stared me’ and the other one, ‘gave me a hiding. It was just straight into the stomach with these big fists.’ This social worker said to Alex, ‘I like doing this to naughty boys. No one else says things like you just did. You idiot. Piss off before you get me angry’.

After that, Alex was too scared to talk to anyone about it, and he began sleeping with a knife under his mattress.

‘I have never slept well again. I’ve never been able to get a life together after that. It’s a struggle not to suicide at bad times … I find it difficult to have any kind of human relationship. I feel like I have no worth. I feel ugly, no confidence, extreme homophobia … I have an overpowering dark side that wears me down and stirs me up inside, filling me with self-doubt, self-conflict, anger issues … the list just doesn’t stop.’

Alex has long-term issues with drugs and alcohol, and when he accepted a compensation payment from the Western Australian Catholic Church, he ‘pissed it all against the wall’.

Alex was accompanied to his session at the Royal Commission by a close friend who commented that ‘they didn’t offer him the help that he needed … He needed the proper intensive counselling. He needed to know it wasn’t his fault … He had no emotional resources to be able to handle having that money … It was like, “Here. Take it. Shut up. Now go away”. And I think that’s the worst thing of all’.

Although he has tried counselling, Alex found that ‘I shut down. I get so far with it and I feel like I’m being chased. I feel like I can’t breathe and it’s like they’ll never be able to understand’.

He has become increasingly spiritual recently and this is helping him to cope.

‘I just hated life for a long time … I hated looking in the mirror. I hated not being able to communicate with anyone. I hated not being able to hold down a job … I hated being an alcoholic, a drug addict. I just pushed everything to the extreme … hoping I would die quickly to be quite honest … but I’ve gone past all that now. I’m on that page that’s turning over.’

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