Bob grew up in Sydney in the 1960s. He started his education at a public primary school then moved to a Catholic boys’ school when he was nine years old. ‘It was really good until I was, I don’t know, “predatored” if that’s the way to say it.’
Bob doesn’t know his abuser’s name but remembers him as one of the teachers who was in charge of disciplining the boys.
‘It was a very, very strict school. If you dropped your pencil on the floor you’d be strapped. You’d be sent out to the corridor then you’d have to go to this particular teacher and he would strap you, and I just think he used to really get off on strapping kids.’
One day Bob arrived at the teacher’s office to receive his usual punishment. This time the teacher ‘flopped his penis out’ and told Bob to touch it. Later he told Bob to give him oral sex.
This continued to happen four or five times a week over the next few months. The teacher’s procedure was to approach Bob during recess, accuse him of some trumped-up charge and then send him to the office where the abuse would take place.
Bob didn’t report the abuse to anyone. He said that this was partly because he felt ashamed and confused and ‘didn’t know if it was wrong’. But he also felt scared. ‘He was very threatening. He told me that if I was to tell anyone he would kill me and my Mum.’
Bob felt trapped. He desperately wanted to escape the abuse but couldn’t say a word about it to anyone. Eventually he came up with creative solution.
‘I started ripping my clothing and ripped my buttons off and told my Mum that I was getting bullied and picked on, which was a lie.’
The lie worked. Bob’s mum transferred him to a public school and that was the end of the teacher’s abuse.
About a year later, Bob sat in confession with his local priest, Father Tobin, and revealed what had happened to him. Afterwards, the priest took him aside.
‘He took me down to a room, and he had some money in his hand, and he said, “What you told me in confession, if you do that to me I can give you some money”. So he gave me a lot of money, back in them days it was like – hundreds of dollars he was giving me. Sometimes he’d give me a hundred, hundred and fifty dollars each time. He used to take it out of the vault. They had a walk-in vault thing.’
Tobin continued to abuse Bob once every two weeks or so over the course of the year. Eventually he stopped visiting Bob’s church and the abuse ended.
Bob said that Tobin’s actions had little effect on him at the time. ‘After a while it just didn’t bother me, because he was paying me.’
As Bob got older, however, the abuse started to make its mark. ‘It made me sort of switched off from a lot of people. I wasn’t as loving to my parents and my brother … I wasn’t as good as I was at school. My education went down. I was very short-tempered.’
Bob left school at about 15 and entered the workforce. As the years went by he managed to keep himself together and lead a functional life. Then in the mid-1990s several triggers went off at once. Bob’s son turned nine, the same age that Bob was when the abuse began, and around the same time Bob saw a lot of news stories about paedophiles.
‘I sort of snapped and got stuck into the alcohol. I was smoking marijuana to sort of like relieve my pain that I had. And I wasn’t the same type of person.’
He decided to disclose the abuse to his mum. ‘She was really upset about it, and she goes, “I’m to blame for this”. I said, “Mum, you’re not to blame. It’s just something that happened that shouldn’t have happened”.’
Encouraged by his mum, Bob rang up the Catholic Church and reported Tobin. They sent someone out to take his statement. Bob said, ‘I think I spoke to a therapist once and then they just brushed it under the carpet.’ He tried to get in touch with the Church many times after that but they didn’t respond and nothing was done about his case.
About 10 years later he returned to the Church, this time with a lawyer.
‘They investigated Father Tobin but didn’t really do anything about the teacher. They said there was no report of him doing it to anyone else at the time, there was nothing they could do about it, and they offered me therapy and that was it.’
Bob used all his therapy sessions and found them helpful. He has suffered nightmares over the years but said that these have eased off recently. He’s now on medication to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Several years ago, Bob disclosed the abuse to his son. ‘He’s just really upset for me and reassuring. He’s a good kid.’