Bart started in fourth grade at a Sydney Marist Brothers school in the 1960s. His classroom teacher, Brother Humphries, would make the boys have ‘sleep time’ after lunch, putting their heads on their desks to nap.
The Brother would ‘single out his pet play things, one of them being myself’, and take them to the front of the room to sleep near him one at a time. He would then sexually abuse them.
‘He would undo the fly on my shorts ... and manipulate my penis. And this went on whenever he chose me, or if it wasn’t me it would be somebody else.’
The other boys in the class would have to keep their heads down during this time or he would give them the cane.
Bart believes that the Brother teaching next door would have been able to see what was happening through the window between the classrooms. ‘Brother Humphries seemed to have had an inkling that somebody was on to him at the time. And it was at the time that it was my turn out the front, when he was using me, playing with my genitals and that, that he sort of looked back across from behind me.’
The Brother who taught Bart the next year was an alcoholic and frequently punished him. ‘So after what happened to me in that year, and what was going on here – the constant caning that was going on for little things – I ended up going into what they’d call today “self-abuse”. I was carving myself with nails and sharp instruments. My grades had dropped ... With the two Brothers, I was in sort of limbo, I didn’t know what was going on, so I sort of stumbled through fifth grade.’
At the same time, his father was threatening to pull him out due to his poor grades. This created conflict between his father and mother, because his mother wanted him to stay at a Catholic school.
When Bart was 14 his football coach (a lay teacher) would drive the boys to games, and ‘nobody would want to sit next to him because he had wandering hands’.
The abuse continues to impact Bart’s mental health and wellbeing.
‘It’s 50 years back for me, but lately it’s catching up ... I can see it in my mind as if it was yesterday. 50 years ago.’
Bart has had difficulties with work and relationships, was on psychiatric medication for a while, and recently admitted himself to a mental health facility.
He found the pamphlets staff at the facility gave him about men who had been sexually abused as children very helpful. ‘I can see my character there, the things I suffer. And now I’m going to pick myself up and move on.’