Brien was taken from his mother at birth and placed in a sect with a couple who believed their leader was the representative of Jesus on Earth. In later life, Brien discovered his placement and subsequent adoption were done without his mother’s consent and were approved on the basis of forged documents. Staff in the hospital of his birth were complicit in not only his adoption but that of other children throughout the 1960s and 70s.
Although the couple Brien lived with were ostensibly his parents, the sect demanded that children move between different homes and properties and Brien lived in several Australian locations and with different people.
At the age of about five, he was sexually abused by someone who got into his bed and tried to masturbate him. Brien found the pain ‘unbearable’ and ‘became hysterical’. He didn’t know the identity of the person and thought it was a woman, but it was also possible that it was one of the male members of the sect.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, before he was 12, Brien was sexually abused by two men who, acting separately, fondled his penis at bath and bedtimes. ‘I remember that I would yell out but no help would come, and I was so afraid I could not move’, he said.
Without access to the world outside, Brien came to believe these actions as well as ‘brutal beatings’ were a part of life. Children were also given sedatives and hallucinogenic drugs on a regular basis.
When Brien began to rebel, he was taken overseas to live for nearly two years and again false documents, including ‘a fake passport’ were used to get him there.
As a young adult, Brien ‘stayed loyal’ to the sect. He didn’t know what alternative there was and teachings had led him to believe ‘that everyone out here in the world is evil’.
He also felt it a matter of ‘survival’ and that he ‘couldn’t break free’.
‘The other thing that I had a goal of, orientated thing, was I needed a home for the rest of my life and if I had of been taken away all those years, I would never have got a home - not that I could foresee. So my main goal was to wait, ride it all and eventually I will die and then I’ll be free of it all.’
When the woman Brien had grown up believing was his mother died, he felt it time to get out. Following his exit, he learned the truth of his adoption and found out that his birthmother and grandmother had tried without success to reclaim him.
He’d never thought of going to the police to report the forgeries nor the sexual abuse by sect members. He’d been inculcated for so long by the woman who led the sect that ‘police were against us’.
‘We were hoodwinked by her. What’s the word? Brainwashed.’
At one stage charges had been brought against leaders of the sect, but the only successful convictions were for minor offences that resulted in small financial penalties.
Brien described the difficulty he had adjusting to life after he’d left the sect. He’d been diagnosed with PTSD and ‘numerous mental health issues’, had used cannabis to manage in day to day life, and ‘couldn’t hold down a job’.
He had however, found members of an extended family, including his mother’s relatives, and this together with good mental health and government services support, had helped.
‘I’ve worked very hard in the last five years to get where I am today and I’m in a pretty good spot’, he said. ‘I’ve been through hell. Through the help of [others] I’ve got myself to this point. I understand that probably nothing’s going to happen from all of this, with the sect part. And I’m okay with that. It used to be a driving factor that it’s got to be stopped, but I don’t think it can be stopped. There’s [not many] people left in it and they’re all getting old now, and revenge isn’t really a big thing that works well with me. I’d just much rather just go okay and walk away … I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ve come a long way.’
Brien said he’d like the sect to recompense those who were taken from their families. ‘I’d love to see their assets frozen. I’d love to see business taken off them. I’d really love to see all that divvied up between all of us children that were hurt … The likelihood of that is not going to happen, I don’t think. I really can’t see that happening, but that’s what all of us kids would have loved to have seen at some point … If something can be done, great. If it can’t, well, I’ve got my life now.’