Raised by a ‘loving family’ in Queensland in the 1950s, Bryan was particularly close with his father. In a statement to the Royal Commission he wrote, ‘In 1960 my father became gravely ill and toward the end of his life I would sleep on the floor beside him and he would hold my hand’.
When he was 12 years old his father died. During the funeral a teacher from Bryan’s Christian Brothers school, Brother Douglas, approached him and began to rub his shoulder. ‘He said “We’ll take care of you, we’ll look after you”. And he was licking his lips, smiling.’
At that stage Bryan thought it was odd that the man was smiling but otherwise he didn’t think much of it. In hindsight, he considers Brother Douglas’s comment ‘horrific’ because it showed that he pre-planned the violent sexual abuse that was soon to follow.
Brother Douglas didn’t inflict this abuse himself. Rather, he colluded with the principal, Brother Linehan, who then abused Bryan. It started just a few days after the funeral. Douglas sent Bryan to see Linehan, supposedly to discuss a strategy for the next athletics competition.
As soon as he arrived, Linehan locked the office door. He touched Bryan’s face and body then pushed him over a desk, held him down and sexually assaulted him. Bryan said, ‘I remember that it was extremely painful. I was crying and told Brother Linehan that I would tell’.
In response, Linehan bashed Bryan in the head and kicked him in the groin. ‘He kept saying over and over again “So, you’re going to tell, are you?” as he continued to kick me. Brother Linehan walked to his chair and said “It will be worse”. Brother Linehan told me that the principal of the school answers to no one.’
Bryan was sexually abused several more times over the next few months, with each assault beginning the same way: Brother Douglas would send Bryan to the office on some trumped- up errand and there Linehan would attack him. As time went on the attacks became more and more brutal.
‘He was worried a couple of times when I wasn’t getting up. I could see the look on his face – “I’ve killed him” or “Is he going to walk again?” On many occasions my testicles were inside my stomach for three, four days at a time.’
By the third occasion Bryan was begging the principal to let him die. By the fifth and final occasion he’d stopped caring.
‘I had grown up pretty quick. Very quick. I thought I’d put my fists up to him. He didn’t back off, he stopped. I thought, if I get my head bitten off here so be it. That was better than getting thrown back on the floor again. This is when he called me everything – “You’ll end up in jail” type thing. He said “I’ll tell you one thing, son. You’ll never get a job in this town”.’
After that the abuse stopped but the damage was already done. Once a bright student and a strong athlete, Bryan’s performance plummeted. At 15 he left school and tried to get a job. For a long while he had no luck and it seemed as if Linehan’s threat was coming true, but eventually he began a career.
Still, Bryan couldn’t escape the psychological trauma of what he’d been through and ended up attempting suicide several times in his early 20s. Eventually, he found a way to cope. ‘I died in 61. There’s two people inside me – the one that’s died is on the left, on the right is the one I created to get through this cruel life.’
For years Bryan kept the abuse to himself. He mentioned some things ‘very briefly’ to a doctor a few years back but otherwise his first full disclosure was only recently to a support group for survivors of child sexual abuse. The group is now helping him to approach police and take legal action against the Church.
Bryan said there was only one reason he decided to come forward and tell his story: ‘Only because I’m there for my grandchildren; that it’s not going to happen to them.’