Angus was repeatedly sexually abused by a priest called Father Blayney when he was an altar boy in a small town in Victoria. The abuse was horrendous – not only rape, but rape with bottles and billiard cues. That was bad, Angus told the Commissioner, but the way the Catholic Church treated him afterwards was even worse. ‘And that’s my main reason for being here today.’
Father Blayney was kicked out of town after his sexual abuse of boys came to light. ‘He left overnight. He was gone.’ It destroyed the town. Gossip about who’d been assaulted spread like wildfire. No-one knew how to deal with it and at that time, when he was 16, Angus didn’t blame the Church. ‘No one knew what to do.’
Some people wanted it hushed up, others might have done something but were drummed out, Angus said. ‘Because of that, none of us kids really told anyone, simply because we knew that people wouldn’t have done anything about it.’
One day, when a local man asked Angus if Blayney had sexually abused him, Angus thought ‘Here’s my chance. I’ll tell someone, an adult, who’ll help me’.
So Angus told him.
‘And he laughed … And that was the first day that destroyed my life because I decided that obviously no adults cared … So I didn’t want anything to do with adults anymore.
‘I just basically died from society. I just stepped away.’
Angus stopped attending school regularly. He started hitch-hiking. He’d tell his mum he was going to see a friend and then spend a week sleeping in different properties. ‘I’d go over to a house, I’d jump inside the fence, and sleep inside the fence line. I couldn’t be anywhere.’
When six men held him at knife point in their car and threatened to kill him, Angus said ‘Fine, go ahead and do it’. They stopped the car and let him out. ‘Because I meant it. I didn’t care anymore … I was never suicidal. I just didn’t want to live. And there’s a difference.’
At first Angus blamed Blayney, but they’d taken him away so he wasn’t there to blame any more.
‘So I blamed the Church and I stopped going to church. So then I blamed God. Then I stopped believing in God. So then there was me … I was the only one left to blame. So I took all the guilt and just got progressively worse.’
Angus started sexually abusing boys himself. He enjoyed the power he had over them as a boost to his ego. He told the Commission that his reasoning back then was, ‘If it was not wrong for Father Blayney, then it must not be wrong for me’. Angus was charged and went to jail for several years.
In the early 1990s Father Blayney was finally charged for sexually abusing boys. Angus saw Blayney on the news, wearing the same sort of hat that he himself wore, and he broke down. It was the thought that, after all this time, he was still identifying with Blayney somehow.
Angus told his story to the local paper to stop the reporters harassing his parents. Then he started getting death threats - he assumes from the Catholic Church because ‘they didn’t like the fact that I’d come out and said what a pack of arseholes they were’.
There was an uproar over Blayney’s flimsy six-month sentence. Police asked survivors to come forward with their own stories after a feature article on Blayney was published. So Angus came forward. And then another can of worms opened for him.
Angus had convinced himself that he’d avoided Father Blayney after the initial sexual abuse. Then his sister told him they went to the presbytery every night. Blayney would lock Angus in the billiard room with him while she was locked in the kitchen.
Now Angus started to remember what Father Blayney had done to him. People were sceptical - why hadn’t he said any of this stuff before?
He told them, ‘I was humiliated. My sister was in the next room … I didn’t scream out, I didn’t yell, I didn’t do anything. I ended up just standing there, or laying there, or bending over there, and taking everything he did. I just couldn’t do anything!’
Angus met the other survivors who were taking Blayney to court. They all had problems. Some were drug addicts or alcoholics, some were domestic violence offenders. ‘Everybody had the same feelings. It just manifested itself in different ways.’
Angus applied for compensation from the Church soon after the court case. It was a drawn-out, difficult and demeaning experience but in the end there was a settlement.
‘It’s not about money. But it is. The simple fact is, I can’t work … I can’t go to an interview … for a job … it makes me sick to even consider going into a job interview … When I walk in I think everybody knows what’s happened to me and everybody knows what I’ve done.’
Angus thinks Father Blayney’s sexual abuse affected him in two ways: he hates big institutions trying to get the better of little people, and he needs complete control in any situation.
Angus sees himself as a non-religious Christian. He still goes to church but it’s irrelevant which one. He thinks all the talk on social media about closing down the Catholic Church is unrealistic.
‘I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but they destroyed a lot of my emotions ... I always think one of the reasons I struggle with this so much is that I can’t hate anyone. I can’t hate Father Blayney … I wish I did. And I don’t.’
The same with the Church. ‘It’s hard to hate people who just don’t care … So why bother?’
When Father Blayney was on trial people were saying things like, ‘He should die … and he should get a hundred years. I said “I just want him to plead guilty”. That’s all I wanted. I wanted him to get up and say, “Yes, I did this”’.