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Brian's story

‘In our family it was a pretty common thing to touch each other. My brothers and I, if we weren’t wresting we were hugging. And my mum and my dad would always hug each other before we went to bed, and that sort of thing. It was a strong loving family … This all happened to me about 50 years ago when I was first sent by my family from the country down to boarding school in Adelaide ... at the age of 12 …

‘I was a pretty sensitive little boy really and quite religious, so I was quite pleased to be going to a school where Christianity and Catholicism was the centre of the school and the heart of it and so on. So I expected to be treated well and educated well ... My class teacher was Brother Doyle ... He would have been around his mid-30s I think … All the teachers were Christian Brothers. So he took an interest in me and I was his sort of A student as it were. I was getting high 90s in all my tests and doing very well academically …

‘I do remember this particular incident, which must have happened … when I would have been in my second year, what they call these days Year 9 … I was aware of the fact that my dad was a bit of a drunk and it bothered me only in the sense that I could see that he wasn’t taking his religious responsibilities very seriously. So in my mind - 12 years old - I thought that was a bit sinful and I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. I couldn’t talk to him. I used to say to him “Please don’t come to mass when you’re drunk”. But I decided I’d go and see Brother Doyle to see if he could help me a bit more come to terms with it. And of course I was pretty upset. I was crying and I was feeling a lot of shame and so on ‘cause, you know, I loved my dad ...

‘So for support I think I put my arms around the Brother and tried to kind of get some comfort … What happened next was both confusing and a little frightening actually … There was no one else there and he pushed me against the desk and he was rubbing his crotch, I guess, against me. We didn’t remove any clothing or anything like that, but because I didn’t have any sexual experience I just had no idea what this was and why. I looked up to his face. He seemed to be smiling about it and getting some pleasure from it or something. I really didn’t understand what was going on at the time … I never spoken about it to anybody, including the school at the time, because as I say, I didn’t really understand what it was …

‘I don’t remember a lot about my relationship with Brother Doyle after that except that I don’t ever remember being particularly close to him … It’s possible that he realised what he’d done and he felt bad about it and he didn’t want it to happen again so he stayed away.

‘Now, I’ve remembered that incident all my life … I have been treated by psychologists and psychiatrists over my adult life, and whenever I brought it up or spoke about it I always minimised it. I always said “Oh, but it was nothing, it was just one little incident” … I had one counsellor actually challenging me and saying “Why are you defending him when you were the victim, you were the one being preyed upon?”

‘It’s only probably since the Mullighan Commission in South Australia and your Commission and the publicity that goes around it, I realise now that the whole period leading up to that particular incident, the whole relationship between me and Brother Doyle was grooming. He was grooming me …

‘When I got to university … I learned a lot about the Catholic Church … I began to think they’re not serious and they’re a bit hypocritical, and I stopped going to mass which was quite a big thing actually … I don’t practise anymore. Haven’t done since I was about 20 …

‘I only talked with my brother about it for the first time last week … He didn’t say anything about his own experiences and I don’t know whether he had anything like that happen to him. But because I … characterised that as grooming, my brother said “But don’t forget, you actually earned those accolades. You were a good student, you were very intelligent and you did work hard and you deserved all that”.

‘I didn’t [disclose], not until my current partner … I’ve had difficulty maintaining long-term relationships ... All of them have been wonderful but perhaps I would have preferred to be able to maintain relationships in a better way. I don’t feel as if I’ve been honourable in some of my behaviour in my relationships … I’ve had some problems with substance abuse. Luckily, I think because I had good support, I haven’t ever tipped over the edge, lost my way in that world. But I did get a little dependent on marijuana at one time in my life.

‘When I think about that part in my life I still cling to the idea that I earned all the praise and accolades that I got. And every child should have that opportunity. I think self-esteem when you’re that old is very, very important. And my self-esteem could have been crushed if there were any more incidents like this or any suggestion that there are secrets that you and I should keep. That kind of behaviour could have really run me off the rails …

‘My grandson is about the same age now that I was when this happened to me. And I want to talk to my daughter and make sure that he understands all this stuff … I want my grandson to be kind of prepared for that sort of thing without being scared and without being suspicious all the time …

‘I identify myself as a survivor of abuse, not a victim … I’ve heard most of the evidence given to the Commission in other states about other institutions, and some of it is simply horrific and I could never have survived some of that. But I have survived and so I call myself a survivor. And I’d like to meet and talk with other survivors and help if there’s groups and so on where we help each other. I may be able to provide some help.’

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