‘I always felt like a square peg in a round hole, always shy.’
Chester’s family was dysfunctional. His mother was an alcoholic and his father was emotionally abusive. By the time he was nine years old, his mother had remarried several times, which meant they moved around a lot. Chester spent most of his time at his maternal grandparents because it was unsettling to be constantly on the move.
In the early 1960s when Chester was 10, his mother enrolled him as a boarder at a Christian Brothers school in regional Victoria. It was confusing for him because he wasn’t a Catholic, and the nuns and Brothers were cruel, often giving out punishments for the smallest thing.
Despite not being Catholic, Chester was made an altar boy for the school. He served at mass every Sunday and had close contact with the parish priest.
One Sunday, the priest asked him to stay back in the presbytery and help him disrobe. The priest then forced Chester to take off his own robe and fondled and masturbated him. He froze and had no idea what to do. The abuse lasted almost 20 minutes, and when the priest had finished he threatened him.
‘He said, “If you tell anyone about this I’ll tell the Christian Brothers you were bad”. So I didn’t say anything because I was forever in trouble.’
When he was 11, he went to visit his mother during the school holidays. He told her what the priest had done, but she told him that priests don’t do that and refused to continue the discussion. Chester kept silent from then on.
Several weeks later, he and another altar boy were held back to help the priest after Sunday mass. The priest forced both boys to perform oral sex on him. When Chester resisted, the priest hit him over the head with a candle stick and knocked him out.
When he came to, a few Christian Brothers were standing over him telling him that he’d been bad again and they threw a soccer ball in his face as punishment. He remembers having two huge lumps on his face, which hurt for weeks.
Chester retreated into himself and often wet the bed, which the nuns severely punished him for each time. He didn’t tell anyone what had happened but he refused to be an altar boy again and the abuse stopped.
‘I couldn’t handle it anymore.’
In the mid-1960s, when he was 14, he was asked if he wanted to leave the school, so he took that chance. He found an apprenticeship and worked hard for many years.
Chester said he couldn’t have sex until he was in his mid-20s as he was too scared. He was confused about his sexuality and, because of the abuse, for many years he believed that he was gay.
As an adult he has struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. He formed a habit of lying to cover up his addictions, and the abuse. He doesn’t like people telling him what to do, which has affected his career and personal relationships. He is estranged from his parents and has committed crimes in the past.
Chester first attended a rehabilitation program in the early 1990s. He found the process hard and had two mental breakdowns on his journey to become sober. At the time of his private session, he was proud to say that he had been sober for 11 years.
When he was in his 40s, he got some counselling through Relationships Australia. He spoke of his issues, but glossed over the abuse as he was ashamed of what had happened.
Chester didn’t disclose the full details of abuse until the late 2000s. He told his rehabilitation program sponsor, who gave him the best support he had ever received. It was through his sponsor that Chester came to the Royal Commission to share his story.
‘I don’t live in the past, I live in today … I’m getting better day by day.’