Carlo experienced a long delay between the act of abuse and the full manifestation of its consequences. It was as if a ticking time bomb had been planted inside him when he was a child. For most of his life he didn’t even know the bomb was there. Then one day when he was in his fifties, it went off.
Born in the mid-1950s in New South Wales, Carlo was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools. When he was about 11 or 12 his teacher, Brother Dominic, started to keep him back at lunchtimes, isolating him in the classroom and sexually abusing him.
Though he was disappointed not to be outside playing with his friends, Carlo wasn’t upset by what Brother Dominic did.
‘At the time I thought, “Well he likes me”. He was very nice to me … I probably even thought I was a “chosen one”.’
It didn’t occur to Carlo to mention the abuse to anyone else. It was only in his early adulthood that he came to realise that what Brother Dominic did was wrong. Still, Carlo was reluctant to take action. During this era, he said, religious figures were widely trusted and revered and ‘society still wasn’t really accepting of coming forward to that type of abuse’.
Carlo mentioned the abuse to his wife and then moved on, oblivious to the wounds he was carrying. Only now in hindsight can he see the way it changed his thinking and his behaviour, affecting those closest to him. The worst thing, he said, was the impact it had on his children.
‘As they’ve grown up I’ve probably disassociated from them and concentrated on providing a roof over their head … I find it really hard giving them the affection that they deserve as children. And that’s really come home now with my grandson.’
The birth of Carlo’s grandson was the trigger that set off the time bomb. Though he desperately wanted to show affection to the boy, Carlo discovered that he didn’t ‘feel right giving him hugs and cuddles’.
This realisation sparked an explosion of unwanted memories and intense emotions. Carlo began to realise just how much he’d been damaged by Brother Dominic, and when he saw an ad calling for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward he decided to act.
Carlo contacted police and made a statement. Afterwards, however, he felt anxious and unsure about whether he wanted to push the matter further. Uncertainty heightened his distress which hit a peak when he saw a newspaper article bearing a picture of Brother Dominic.
‘I lost it at work. I had an emotional breakdown.’
The police helped Carlo to connect with a support service who then connected him with a counsellor and a men’s support group. Strengthened by their support, Carlo decided to push ahead with the police investigation.
At the time of Carlo’s session with the Royal Commission the investigation was still underway, with detectives confident that they’d soon be able to charge Brother Dominic. Carlo is eager for the whole thing to end. It’s been tough coping with the constant delays, but otherwise he’s been impressed with the police response.
‘When I had my breakdown the police couldn’t have been more helpful. They’re not psychiatrists but they immediately put me on the right track.’
In the meantime, for the sake of his grandson, Carlo is pushing ahead with his counselling, trying to do all he can to heal himself. He’s found that one of the best things he can do is talk.
‘The more times I tell the story, as emotional as I get, it does make me stronger.’