Part of the strength Brad has found to deal with his child sexual abuse came from his parents who provided a solid ‘core’ to his large Catholic family. As a child in the 1970s, Brad saw that his father was ‘very involved with the church’, and ‘would always talk about his experience as a kid growing up with the sisters’. Wanting to please his father, Brad became an altar boy, and remembers that ‘every experience we had with religious people, clerical people, was positive – except this’.
It was quite common for clergy to visit Brad’s family home in regional Victoria, and one or two priests were close friends of the family. ‘I was exposed to them on a weekend, I was exposed to them during the week day, I was lucky it only happened once’, he said.
It now seems that one priest, Father Anthony, attended barbecues or dinners as a way to groom Brad and his family. Brad does not recall receiving ‘any extra special treatment’ from the priest. There were never any ‘lollies’ or ‘babysitting’, but Brad does remember ‘seeking him out’.
One weekend, Father Anthony took Brad away on a shooting trip. They stayed overnight in the house of the priest’s mother, watched a film, and drank sweet alcohol before they went to bed. Brad did not go into detail about the sexual abuse, and does not ‘actually remember the morning after’, or many details about the next day.
‘I don’t know if I put it to the back of my mind, or if I forgot about it, or if I suppressed it’, he said. ‘I don’t really remember it being much of an issue until the last four years.’
Brad said that ‘after it initially happened … I wet the bed for six years, five years or six years. And I know that used to upset dad, but … I was never questioned about it’. However, after Brad had finished his Higher School Certificate, his father asked a question out of the blue – ‘Father Anthony’s just been arrested. Do you know anything about that?’ Brad denied knowing anything, and ‘didn’t really think about it’ for the better part of the next 30 years.
Brad got on with his life. He worked in a series of jobs, and ‘got smacked pretty hard’ when he ‘got hooked on Valium’ in his 20s. He had it ‘under control’ until his last job exposed him to high levels of violence and abuse. This ‘brought back nightmares’ and he had to stop work. When he was assessed by a WorkCover psychologist she asked him directly whether he had ever been ‘abused by a priest as a child’. Brad learned that his behaviour since the abuse ‘fit a formula’. He then entered a PTSD program, and decided to speak to the Royal Commission as part of his healing process.
Brad then disclosed to his wife, but has no intention of ever telling his parents. His mum once ‘badgered’ him about child sexual abuse – possibly because the subject had come up at church – but Brad denied being molested. ‘It’s nobody’s business but mine’, he said. ‘They don’t need it … Neither of them need it … No part of me wants them to know.’
About two years ago, Brad realised that he had to tell the police before he ‘exploded’.
‘I needed to do something before I did something really stupid and somebody suffered that had nothing to do with it’, he said. ‘You can lie to everybody else, but you can’t lie to yourself … On the way home, it was like a weight, just, it was like a yoke being lifted … I was pretty emotional for a couple of days after that.’
After reporting Father Anthony to the police, Brad was told that the priest had recently died, but not before he had served a custodial sentence for the sexual abuse of other children. While his own case was ‘dead’, his ‘big bugbear’ is still with the people who ‘knew and just hand-balled the problem’ by moving Father Anthony from parish to parish. ‘I would love to see some people charged. I would love to see warrants issued, I would love to see people spend time, serious time, in a jail’, he said. ‘Is there anything worse than messing with a kid?’
Brad’s condition has deteriorated in the last couple of years, but he is not interested in seeking compensation because ‘money doesn’t fix things’. He sees a psychologist, and takes Valium and sleeping pills so he can calm down and not do anything ‘stupid’. ‘It’s just something that I haven’t been able to, you know, the genie in the bottle … can’t get it back in.’
These days, Brad rides a motor bike to ‘clear his head’, and draws on the ongoing strength of his family. He said that he no longer goes to church because ‘I don’t believe in religion anymore, I don’t believe that there’s a God, I don’t believe anything we were brought up to believe … I hope the Church disappears. I really do … I really hope the Catholic Church is brought to its knees’.