Arnold grew up in western Sydney, and was sexually abused as a teenager in the 1970s at his Christian Brothers school. When he was in Year 7 Arnold encountered Brother Carter, ‘a nice, calm, gentle man’ who taught science part-time and also took the boys on camps.
Carter showed an interest in Arnold’s studies and welfare, including troubles his parents were having with their relationship.
‘I didn’t realise at the time, but looking back on it there was a lengthy time of grooming ... Yeah, it was, and I got actually in a way close to him in that sense. That he would do things that he wouldn’t with the other students, like spend a bit more time talking.’
Arnold attended one camp with Carter, another Brother and a large group of boys. He ended up sleeping in Carter’s tent as there was not room in the tent with the other boys, and Carter helped him get ready for bed.
Back at the school Carter began asking Arnold about more personal matters, such as whether he masturbated. During one lunchtime Carter invited Arnold into the science labs on the pretext of conducting an interesting experiment, then coerced him into a back room.
He told Arnold ‘Jesus wants us all to be happy’ and explained how ‘there’s different ways of being happy’. Arnold ‘didn’t get all the words’ he said, ‘because things were starting to happen in that room’.
The Brother proceeded to undo Arnold’s pants and fondle his genitals. Arnold froze in fear. ‘I think because I wasn’t doing anything he just kept going, maybe.’
Carter removed his own pants and attempted to make Arnold masturbate him, then attempted to force Arnold to perform oral sex. The abuse ended quickly when ‘I started to cry, I just lost it’.
Arnold was confused and wondered how he had been expected to act in this situation. ‘I didn’t know what was going on, and ironically, too, part of me was thinking I didn’t know what to do.’
The Brother instructed Arnold not to say anything about the incident, saying ‘we don’t need other people to know about this, this is about you and I’. ‘And then he referred back to Jesus.’
After this abuse Arnold’s relationship with Carter changed. The Brother became distant and did not show the same interest in him, and even started to give him the strap like he did other boys.
Arnold did not tell anyone about the abuse. He was worried about how his brother would react and ‘feared that he would lose it’, and he knew the sacrifices his parents had made to send him to the school.
‘I just didn’t want to make them feel bad or feel sad. They worked so hard for me … Stupidly I’m trying to protect Mum and Dad.’
He remained confused about how he ‘should’ have acted that day in the science rooms. ‘Was I supposed to do something ... and I did it wrong? But I didn’t know, and nobody told me, and this is the stuff in my head.’
Arnold also wondered whether he should have enjoyed what Carter did to him.
‘I questioned my sexuality. I was thinking too, am I supposed to like this? ... You just turned yourself inside out.’
For the next 40 years Arnold kept the abuse secret, although he remembers seeing other boys from his school on the television news in regards to having been abused there. He married, had a child, and found work. Carter was always in the back of his mind, however, coming to the foreground when he tried to be intimate with his wife. ‘I couldn’t talk to her about it. It was like a non-communication about it.’
Eventually this issue took a toll on their marriage and they divorced. ‘That was a big thing. Being intimate, being close, is important ... Not so much the actual sex act, that’s just part of it, but being able to be that close. And as a result it was a relationship where there was a bit of distance there, and that eats away at it.’
The publicity about child sexual abuse and the work of the Royal Commission prompted Arnold to make contact with the Commission. Through this contact he was referred to police, and is in the process of preparing a detailed statement. He has been impressed by the police response so far, and how they have treated him with great respect.
As yet Arnold has not approached the school or Church regarding compensation, as he would like to complete his contact with police before doing so.
For years Arnold wondered if he was Carter’s only victim, and he has finally learned he wasn’t.
‘The police disclosed to me, after I gave all the information of mine, they disclosed to me that Brother Carter – there are other boys that have come forward accusing Brother Carter and he’s actually going to court ... And that in a way validated me, but more importantly when I think back on it, that grooming, he was too good for me to be the only one.’