‘I was silent for a lot of years, but now I’m over that.’
In the 1970s, between the ages of 12 and 14, Bronson was sexually abused by Charlie Flick, a Catholic priest.
Memories of Charlie waking him ‘in the middle of the night’ to abuse him, or hearing Charlie proposition other boys while away on group trips in New South Wales and Victoria, were like a ‘jigsaw’ of memories until Bronson’s adult brain could piece things together.
‘If there was no other adult there and Charlie had four boys up there he’d say, “Which one’s going to sleep with me tonight?”’
Bronson didn’t tell anyone about the abuse when he was young because the priest warned him to stay silent. ‘If you told anyone you’d die. That’s what he said all the time, so – hence that’s why I didn’t tell anyone. You just block it out.’
But he believes his father ‘must have known what was going on’. He remembered a day when Charlie came over to their house to work on his car and offered to take Bronson for a drive.
‘So I went out on the road and got abused and then come back and Dad was standing at the front door waiting, and he was angry at me and told me to go to my room.’
In secondary school, Bronson lost what he considers a promising sporting career ‘because I didn’t want to get changed in front of others – that potential was stolen in my view’, he said.
It wasn’t until his 30s that Bronson spoke about the abuse – even after denying it to relatives – mainly because ‘even to this day I’m still scared’. This was well after Charlie had been jailed for the first time.
The priest had always been treated ‘like a king’ due to his status in the Church, and Bronson has often wondered what Charlie’s parents and other relatives, all dead, would have thought of him pleading guilty to child sexual abuse.
Bronson has been on and off medication ‘for years’ for anxiety, depression and a recent diagnosis of PTSD. His fear of leaving his children alone was one of the reasons his marriage ended.
Bronson’s recently been seeing a new counsellor because ‘my anger and stuff kept coming out. I just didn’t want another relationship to go haywire because of my shit …
‘The counsellor said the anger is coming out now in life because I couldn’t be angry as a kid.’
Bronson has never reported Charlie to the police. ‘What’s the point now? He’s in there and he’ll never get out.’ However, he has joined a civil claim against the bishop who moved Charlie around various parishes when his child abuse became known.
Bronson was motivated to come to the Royal Commission ‘just to tell the story so that it puts measures in place that it doesn’t happen again and try to get some sort of relief’.
He said that mandatory reporting – by ‘relatives, yeah, anyone really’ – should be one of the Commission’s strongest recommendations to government.
He also recommended providing children with ‘somewhere you can talk to someone [about sexual abuse] and you’re not going to get told off’ – not like at school where ‘the nuns used to belt you’.
Bronson’s partner and children are the source of his strength now.