‘I’m an only child and my father was an alcoholic and a gambler and a wife basher and a paedophile.’
Between the ages of six and 14, Bradley was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his father. He thinks his mother must have known about the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
When he went to the local Marist Brothers’ school in the 1950s as an 11-year-old, he was sexually abused by Brother Marco only a short time after arriving. He wondered if his mother had alerted the Brothers to trouble at home: ‘I think my problem was, did the Brothers know?’
‘I’m absolutely certain that they knew [my father] was a paedophile because my mother confided in the Brothers and she had approached me once and said, “Does your father do anything to you that you don’t like?”, and I said, “No”. And my reason was, “You should bloody know because he’s doing it in the house”.
‘But she knew and she went to the Brothers … To me she caused it, because he got onto me too quickly, Brother Marco. It was in the first term and he just zoned in and I think a paedophile can smell a weak child.’
Marco would call Bradley up to the front desk and run his hands up his shorts, fondling his genitals. Bradley would then be made to go to the front row, where he’d sit feeling guilty and terrified about what would happen next. On one occasion, Marco made Bradley stay back after class.
‘He started to get pretty serious about it all and having experienced it at home I knew what was going to be next. That was a big difference. I wasn’t [being] molested for the first time. I had knowledge of what was going to happen to me. He put my hand on his penis, but before that I was standing screaming inside for someone to come and save me.’
Bradley told the Commissioner that the door suddenly opened and another Marist Brother entered the room and said, ‘You shouldn’t be here’.
Marco told his colleague to ‘fuck off’, and the other Brother left. Bradley saw this interruption as his chance to escape. He made for the door with Marco yelling after him that if he left, he’d be sorry. ‘The ride home on my pushbike was terrifying, because I thought he was chasing me.’
From being top of his class, Bradley’s grades suddenly plummeted. ‘I just liked coming first but after I was molested by the Brother that all went by the wayside and I hated school and just wanted to get out of it.’
The day after he’d run from Marco, exam results were handed out and Bradley came fifth and not his usual first. ‘I was shattered’, he said. ‘He just looked at me and smiled. It was payback.’
Eager from then on to leave school, Bradley took up a trade apprenticeship but did the bare minimum to get through because he hated being in a classroom. Nevertheless, he succeeded in business, got married and had four children, all the while putting memories of the abuse behind him. ‘I was a very efficient user of the steel drawer where you drop the memories away.’
Bradley said the abuse had impacted greatly upon his life. His first disclosure was to his wife when he was in his 50s. Through intervening years he’d had suicidal thoughts, and continual violent nightmares that had particular themes of children being attacked by men trying to kill them. He’s also had physical pain since his late teens that he attributes to the childhood abuse.
He has never been able to be affectionate with his sons, and had hugged them for the first time only 18 months previously. Recently he told his children about the abuse and was grateful for their understanding and support. One of his sons encouraged him to seek compensation from Catholic Church officials in New South Wales.
At the time of coming to the Royal Commission, Bradley had engaged a solicitor to help with this claim. He hoped that others who’d been abused didn’t wait as long as he had to disclose. ‘I think the only thing you can do is get the story across’, he said.
‘That if you’re being abused, tell someone. It’s that simple – at least to get a start. I never had a start. I was 52 years of age. Even then I don’t know how I did it.’