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Charles Robert's story

‘I just have this detestable hate for the whole lot of them. And like they think that they can hide behind their religion and use that as an excuse not to face … punishment from the law … Who are these people … I was seriously a bad child after all that stuff had happened.’

Charles grew up in the 1960s in a regional town in Victoria. He suffered years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers.

Charles told the Commissioner, ‘Brother Williams sexually abused me in the back of the classroom. He told the class to look to the front of the room and not to turn around’. The Brother then digitally penetrated Charles while squeezing on his penis, ‘a really violent, painful squeezing … the pain was unbearable’.

The abuse caused Charles to become incontinent and Brother Williams forced Charles to sit in his own excrement in class until ‘eventually he let me go out, and made me walk through the whole class. My life was pretty fucked up from that time’. He told the Commissioner that ‘it was also at that moment I realised that this form of abuse had been happening to me since Grade 3’.

Brother Williams told Charles that if he said anything to his parents, ‘he would make sure I’d get put into the orphanage and then he’d just, you know, make my life hell … I never said nothing to no one or anything, but I was teased. I used to get spat on all the time and all sorts of cruel shit’.

Charles was also raped by Brother Williams in the shower at a school camp, and in the public toilets on a school excursion. ‘The best way to describe him is insidious. When I realised how long it went on for, it was just shocking … [I have] vivid memories … they just never go. I have nightmares like you wouldn’t believe.’ Charles told the Commissioner that the abuse has ‘never come to an end. It’s just in me all the time’.

When Charles told a high ranking Church official what Brother Williams had been doing, the man told him he would look into it. Nothing happened, but ‘my life just turned into hell even more’. Brother Williams hit Charles with a leather strap or a ruler every day.

At high school Charles was again sexually abused by one of his teachers. ‘He asked my best friend for sex and … I freaked out in the classroom, in front of everyone … I just shouted at him, “You’re nothing but a little boy fucker” … He went mental … and I was locked in a room … I zipped myself inside of this bag, to hide from him.’

After school, Brother Harold found him and ‘just kicked the shit out of me while I was in the bag … and then he digitally raped me in the hallway … I was nearly unconscious because it was really violent … He said to me, “I can kill you”, and no one would ever know that it was him that did it’. Charles’s mother was called to the school because of his outburst in class, and Charles was told to take two weeks off school. When he returned, Brother Harold had left.

Charles told the Commissioner, ‘I was already a drunk and into drugs and everything when I was in Grade 6 … all the way through high school’. Although Charles did all his schoolwork, he ‘just hated being there’. His behaviour was appalling, and when one of his teachers tried to befriend him, he told him, ‘“There’s nothing you can do. I just fuckin’ hate everyone, everything, just leave me alone” … I was just out of control’.

Charles went through the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process. ‘That fucked me up. Lost my marriage.’ The Towards Healing mediator ‘started getting really aggressive’ and told him, ‘“We will use everything that we have now against you if you … pursue this through the police” … They really showed their true colours. My marriage broke down … that night’.

Charles has experienced mental health issues for many years. He has given up drugs and alcohol, but takes anti-depressants and other strong medication. ‘I accepted that I needed to go on medication to live the rest of my life in a way that was going to be sane … inside of me there’s a psychopath, and I live with that every day.’

Charles told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t think about suicide because I had to grow up tough as a consequence to everything that happened to me … So I’ve just got this resilience that I don’t give in and I never did to Williams and Harold either. I never gave in. My way of not giving in was making their life hell every day. That’s how I managed’.

After attending his session at the Royal Commission, Charles wants to ‘walk away today knowing that I’ve let myself fall off the precipice and start to begin a life worth living’. He would like to see Brother Williams and Brother Harold arrested, ‘and I want to believe that there’s justice. These two creatures and their insidious behaviour need to be held accountable for their crimes’.

Several of Charles’s school friends took their own lives because of the abuse they suffered at his school and at other Catholic schools in his town. ‘It’s not just your soul they destroy, it’s your spirit as well. But I said to myself that I would never give up. I’ve taken every bit of abuse that I can take from those people. All I want to do [is to] move out into the countryside, somewhere nice and quiet … They destroy so much. They destroy your family. They destroy your friends.’

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