Allen said he was shocked by the intensity of the emotions he felt in the lead up to his session with the Royal Commission. ‘I said that to my partner: I just can’t understand, I’ve spoken to officers here maybe twice in depth and I end up bawling uncontrollably, and I couldn’t get off the phone, I couldn’t say goodbye. They were so good, but it did take me by surprise.’
After his family moved to Sydney in the late 1950s, Allen was sent to a high school run by the De La Salle Brothers. During his second year, his dad passed away. Father Pearson approached him in the playground about a month later and asked how he was handling things.
‘He asked me to visit him in the presbytery at the church after school. At the time I remember I felt ill at ease with him and I didn’t feel that visiting him would help me much with what I was going through. I told him that I was fine but he insisted that I come after school. I mumbled something like “okay” but I never attended.’
Allen went home with a ‘bad vibe’ about Father Pearson and did his best to avoid the man over the next few days. But eventually Pearson caught up with him again in the playground and insisted that he come to the presbytery after school. Allen said, ‘I wasn’t confident enough to refuse outright … I can still remember walking up to the door, not knowing why I thought something was so wrong’.
The housekeeper showed him into a room where the priest was waiting, alone. Father Pearson made no mention of Allen’s dad, and instead started asking questions about Allen’s sexual development. He put his hand on Allen’s knee and asked if he’d been circumcised. ‘I remember that I was feeling very afraid and shuffling on the chair, trying to find a way to put an end to it. My heart was racing and I couldn’t catch my breath.’
Pearson then forced his hand into Allen’s pants and groped his genitals. Allen struggled, broke free and fled. That evening his mother asked him why he was late home and he mumbled something about being delayed at school.
After that there was no more abuse from Father Pearson, but there was a separate incident where, on the pretext of conducting a medical check, a group of Brothers took Allen and six other boys into a private office and told them to strip to their underwear.
‘In turn we had to come forward, look straight ahead and open our underwear. There were about four or five Brothers or men looking at us. I heard them making comments to each other like, “I think he has a girlfriend”. I didn’t know what that meant.’
Allen said that this incident doesn’t bother him as much as the encounter with Pearson. That was more hurtful, he said, partly because he had to go through it alone and partly because he was so vulnerable at the time.
‘As an adult I now know that part of the reason I was targeted by this creature was because he was aware that my father was no longer around. I’m sorry now that I didn’t scream, hit or report this when it occurred, then perhaps other children would have been safe from similar incidents.’
Pearson is now dead, but Allen still feels angry and wants to ‘get back’ at the school somehow, even if this means relying on the Royal Commission to ‘give these organisations a good kick up the bum and say, “Not good enough”.’