Chris Steven's story

'He was obviously the music master or something. You walk into this room and he was sitting at the piano and he played the note and he said, "Sing that note" and I sang the note and he said, "Well, you're in the choir".'

Chris clearly remembers that first meeting with Brother Tarrant in the early 1970s. He was in Year 4 at a primary school run by the Marist Brothers in Queensland. At the time Chris was a happy kid: 'played football – that sort of thing'.

'I was an altar boy at the time, giving consideration to joining the clergy myself. Because we were a very deeply Roman Catholic family. I think Dad would've been very proud if one of his boys had joined the Church.'

Brother Tarrant spent time grooming both Chris and his family. 'He did the old "become friends with the family", ingratiate himself in there and get invited over for dinner, and invited on family outings and all that sort of thing.'

Tarrant sexually abused Chris regularly for the next three years. Chris did not tell anyone at the time. 'Fear was the biggest thing. The worst thing you could be called at that school was a poofter … the bullying that went on.' Chris became distrustful and had problems with his other teachers almost immediately.

When he was about 12 years old Chris was sitting at the back of the school smoking a cigarette with a friend when he was approached by ‘one of what the teachers called the “bad kids”’. The boy 'bummed a cigarette' and asked Chris if he was okay. 'From then on I became very good friends with them and by the time I was 13 I was drinking alcohol and taking drugs.'

Tarrant called Chris to his office one afternoon and wanted to know where Chris had been and why he was hanging around with the bad kids. 'I said, "I've just had enough of you molesting me sexually" – he was always trying to put his hand down my pants.' The abuse ended and shortly after this Tarrant was moved to another school.

'I never became antisocial. Any destructive behaviour was purely towards myself.' In adulthood Chris continued to struggle with drugs and alcohol. He couldn't settle anywhere, and had difficulties forming relationships. An early marriage ended.

In his early 30s Chris was hitting a low point. He decided to attempt some study at university. 'I wanted to start all over again.'

'That's when I met my wife. She sort of put an arm around me and said, "You'll be okay, come with me", and she's pretty much looked after me ever since.'

'I'd come to the realisation that it wasn't my fault, I wasn't the cause. I was the victim, not the problem.'

In the mid-1990s a policeman phoned Chris about Tarrant. 'He said to me, "We've spoken to this man and he's made certain admissions and your name is on the list".' The police were looking for a couple of Chris's school friends as well, including a man named Andrew Shaw. 'I said to the policeman, "You won't find Andrew. He blew his brains out with a shotgun". There was a long silence.'

Chris eventually made a formal statement to the police about the abuse by Brother Tarrant. Tarrant was tried and convicted in another state. Chris doesn't know if his experiences formed part of the evidence.

These days Chris feels he has 'dealt with' the abuse, though he admits he does not feel entirely free of it. 'I probably drink more than my doctor would recommend that I drink. Drugs occasionally.' Chris has not participated in any Church redress schemes, but he is thinking about taking civil action.

'Let's face it. I told the police 20 years ago about this. I have not heard from the Church. Not an "Are you okay?"… Nothing.'

Chris was prompted to approach the Royal Commission when he heard a senior Marist Brothers spokesman insisting the order did not know about the sexual abuse in its schools in the 1970s.

'This whole thing has got to come out – that they did know.'


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