In the mid-1980s, Angus was 13 when he came into contact with Martin Fowler, a cleric at his local Catholic church in regional New South Wales.
‘I’m not sure how it happened but … I ended up wrestling with Martin Fowler … I do recall that we wrestled at the back of the presbytery … I think that when we were wrestling we took off our shirts.’
The wrestling became ‘ridiculously weird’ when Fowler suggested that each time Angus beat him, he could punish him in some way. Angus could, for instance, spit on him, or rub his sweaty feet in Fowler’s face.
Angus told the Commissioner that he believed that Fowler let him win the first few times, so that Angus could punish him. After the first couple of sessions, Angus recalled ‘being surprised … because [Fowler] really dominated the wrestle and he really showed his strength’.
Fowler sexually abused Angus a number of times during these wrestling sessions, including attempting to digitally penetrate and ‘dry hump’ Angus while pinning him to the floor, face first.
‘I couldn’t believe that a priest had done that. I remember thinking, “Why me?” and “Why would he do this to me?” I remember that I didn’t tell anyone about what he had done to me. I was embarrassed and I didn’t want anyone to know, or to get teased about it.’ Angus only wrestled with Fowler once more before deciding he didn’t want to ever again.
Angus eventually told his parents that Fowler ‘had done some sexual stuff to me. I didn’t want to tell them exactly what had happened as I was embarrassed’. His parents invited Fowler to their place, without telling him why. ‘I remember that Martin got out of the car all smiles’, but the smiles soon disappeared when Angus’s father began to yell at him.
He was saying things like, ‘You fucking poofter cunt. You better stay away from my boy … or you’re dead’. Fowler got straight back in his car and that was the last they saw of him. Angus’s parents didn’t go to the police. ‘Now, l look back and I’m thinking, well obviously, I can’t understand why they didn’t … and I don’t think they thought about it either.’
At the time of the abuse, Angus didn’t know anything about sex and after it occurred, he felt pressured to have sex with a girl, ‘to prove that [I] wasn’t a faggot … I still remember to this day, I wasn’t ready. I was shitting meself, but it was like I had to prove, I had to step up so that it didn’t affect me … I wasn’t sexually ready, but it was like I was forced to do it, because I had to prove …’
Angus told the Commissioner, ‘I’m a very angry man because of this … I done two years’ imprisonment … This could be part of the reason why I went to jail you know … I got anger issues for sure … The best way to describe it is: I’m not a criminal; I done a criminal act. To me, a criminal goes out looking for … I don’t’.
Angus saw Fowler in the street a few years ago and ‘it took all my mind not to go and punch the shit out of him. I wanted to … Fair dinkum took all my mind not to go and … I just wanted to run in and belt him’.
As well as anger issues, Angus has had problems with drugs and alcohol and has suffered from depression and anxiety. He still uses drugs occasionally, ‘to numb me. It’s to take away this pain. To take away the edge sort of thing’.
Martin Fowler was eventually charged and convicted of sexually abusing a number of boys and is awaiting sentencing for other sexual offences.
Angus has found a counsellor who has really helped him. ‘I’m trying, mate. That’s all I can do, is just try. I know it’s affected me, but, what’s the word, I’m a chameleon, mate. Put me into the situation, I’ll just blend in, just try and make the best of it, you know.’
Angus sees coming to the Royal Commission as a method of healing. ‘Best way I describe it is, it was a scar that was on me hand, right, and we put a band-aid on it [and now] the band-aid’s ripped off. So now it’s time to look at that scar and heal it … I still look at it. I can still see that there’s a cut there sort of thing and I still want it to heal … And talking about this, this is healing it.’