‘The best thing in terms of today is just getting all this stuff out, because for the past almost 30 years I’ve been training myself to try and forget it. But it just keeps coming back, but in ugly ways.’
In the 1980s, when Brandon was a student at a Marist Brothers school in Sydney, he was sexually abused by the dormitory master, Brother Wallace.
At first Brandon didn’t realise that what the Brother was doing was sexual abuse. As well as being the dorm master, Wallace did some nursing duties, and when Brandon got a rash on his groin, Wallace was the one who examined him.
Wallace diagnosed the rash as an infection and prescribed an ointment. He told Brandon not to apply the ointment himself, because if he did so he could infect the other students. So for the next few weeks, Wallace applied the ointment to Brandon’s groin. After a while he told Brandon that the rash had spread to his rectum, and with that justification, he digitally penetrated Brandon.
The rash got worse and so when a doctor was visiting the school one day, Brandon went to see him. The doctor told Brandon that he was allergic to the ointment and prescribed a cream. On his way back to class, Brandon stopped and asked the nurse if it was alright to apply the cream himself. ‘And she then enquired of me, “What do you mean?”’
Brandon explained what Wallace had been doing. The nurse then informed the headmaster, who passed the matter down the chain to the form master who paid a visit to Brandon.
‘He said, “Just keep this between you and I. Don’t tell anyone about it. And if it ever happens again, that Brother Wallace wants to apply cream or anything like that, come straight to me. But just keep it to ourselves. Don’t tell your parents”. I went, “Okay, fine”. Not even 24 hours pass by and that’s when things start to get ugly.’
In the middle of the night Wallace dragged Brandon out of bed and beat him. He did it again and again over the next few weeks, sometimes with a cane, sometimes with a cricket bat. After a few weeks he stopped attacking Brandon directly and began inciting Brandon’s classmates to do it.
Wallace left the school at the end of the year, but when the new term rolled around the other students continued to bully Brandon. Frightened and vulnerable, Brandon was targeted by the new dorm master, Brother Liston.
‘What he used to do was, when he was cutting my hair, he rubbed himself up and down against me … The other thing he’d do to is, he’d actually straddle your leg while he’s cutting your hair and start rubbing his groin up and down your leg.’
The actions of Liston and Wallace had a massive, ongoing physical and emotional impact on Brandon.
‘Failed relationships, alcoholism, drug addiction in terms of prescription medication, experimentation with illicit drugs, suicide attempts, loss of family, loss of jobs, sexual confusion and experimentation, loss of friends … been in and out of four rehabs, ongoing physical and mental pain because the beatings took their toll.’
In the mid 2000s, Brandon decided to take legal action. By this stage he had told his parents about the abuse and they were keen to help in any way they could. Brandon’s parents had a meeting with one of the leaders of the Marist Brothers. It seemed to go well at first. The Brother accepted what Brandon’s parents said about Wallace, even adding ‘We’re not surprised. Had our suspicions’.
However, when the Marists Brothers found out that Brandon had engaged a lawyer, they closed ranks. The Brother, Brandon said, ‘went into cover-up mode and denied even meeting my parents’. Similarly, when Brandon’s investigator tracked down the nurse who had originally reported the abuse, she denied the whole thing.
Nevertheless, the Marists offered Brandon a modest sum to settle the matter – a sum which was far less than Brandon’s legal fees. His lawyers offered to take the amount and waive the rest, so Brandon ended up with nothing – slightly less in fact because he had to pay some Medicare bills.
Brandon didn’t mind. All he wanted was an acknowledgement, and for him, the offer of money was exactly that. Also, Brandon has no interest in perpetuating hatred and anger.
‘The only person that’s getting hurt is myself. So rather than think nasty things I then start to actually pray for that person … and hope to hell that he is not doing what he used to do, and that it was just a phase that he went through. And wishing him only the best, because otherwise he’s just occupying space in my head rent free.’