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Anita and Lou's story

Before Lou met Anita he regularly abused alcohol and drugs as a means of coping with the trauma of his violent childhood. Born in the mid-1960s with an intellectual disability, his mother physically and sexually abused him and his father once ‘threw me out a window when I was a baby. He threw me out a two-storey window. Landed on my head and I’ve got fluid on the brain’.

When he was very young, Lou’s mother abandoned him at a Sydney railway station. ‘She just left me in my pram. I was a baby, I was only a baby. She just took off and left me.’

Lou was found by the authorities and sent to live with his grandparents. When they grew too old to care for him, he was sent to a mental hospital before being sent to a residential school for boys with intellectual disabilities. The school was run by the Catholic order of Saint John of God, and Lou was eight when he arrived there.

Upon starting at the school, Lou was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the Brothers, the worst being Brother Strachan who was one of the main staff in charge. In addition to being abused himself, Lou saw other boys being tortured and even witnessed Strachan murder a disabled student. ‘I seen a young boy got killed in the boys’ home I was in. I seen all that. Strachan drowned him in the lake.’

Lou attempted to tell the police about the violence and sexual abuse that was occurring at the school. The police came but Strachan intercepted and wouldn’t allow Lou to speak with them.

‘I tried to stop that with the boys’ home. Yeah, I tried to stop all that by the police. Strachan said “Don’t talk to them”. Yeah, that was Brother Strachan, he said “Don’t talk to them” … He kicked us in the guts trying to explain to the coppers what they done to us.’

When the police arrived Strachan spoke to them himself, denied anything untoward was happening and used Lou’s intellectual disability to discredit him. ‘Police turned up, they couldn’t prove it … He said, “Don’t listen to these boys, they’re all spastic”. Nah, the police couldn’t do nothing.’

Lou experienced frequent abuse until he left the school at the age of 12. As an adult he struggled with substance abuse, difficulty trusting people and problems with authority figures. It was in the late 90s that he met Anita and from that moment on he started to pull his life together. ‘I did use alcohol. I don’t touch the stuff anymore.’

Two years into their relationship Lou told Anita about the abuse he experienced at the school. It was the first time he had told anyone, and Anita has been very supportive. They have four children together and have been happily married for over 18 years, although, as Anita told the Commissioner, ‘Children weren’t brought into this world to be bashed or sexually abused or even, you know, put up with drunken and alcoholic parents ... Lou sort of has a hard time connecting with the children because of what he’s been through’.

Lou is aware that Strachan is now dead but several other of his abusers have had allegations against them, with at least one jailed for committing sexual crimes against disabled victims. Some years ago Lou approached Towards Healing to make a claim. However, it did not progress and he doesn’t know why. He is considering seeking legal advice to pursue it further.

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