In the early 1990s Ciaran was with a friend having ‘a really good discussion about life’ when he disclosed that he’d been sexually abused at school. His friend told him he ‘should do something about it’.
‘I said, “Don’t worry about it”. So then … I told my wife at the same time. She didn’t know before that either. [She] wasn’t surprised. I think she suspected something had happened. I hated anyone touching me … You sort of recoil. At any rate we discussed it and then of course you try to put it in the back of your mind forever.’
Ciaran was 10 when his parents died within a year of each other and after initially being cared for by relatives, he’d been sent in his early teens to a Christian Brothers boarding school. While he was at the school in the late 1950s, he was sexually abused by Brother Bennett who had a room off the boys’ dormitory. The abuse was ‘much more than touching’ and Ciaran thinks it likely many other boys were sexually abused by Bennett.
Ciaran told two other Christian Brothers about the abuse, but after being called ‘a liar’ he wondered ‘where do you go with this?’ Some time shortly afterwards, however, Brother Bennett was moved on, which made Ciaran think ‘obviously there was something wrong’.
Over the next few years, Ciaran ‘did every possible thing to get out of school, to be expelled’, but without success. He smoked cigarettes, stole things from the tuckshop and on-sold them to other students – ‘a good racket’ while it lasted – until he was caught and ‘got seven across the backside’ by one of the Brothers who used to soak his leather strap in vinegar. ‘I had a job to sit down for about a fortnight’, Ciaran said.
At one stage Ciaran was taken out for the day by two Christian Brothers and when they expressed a desire for a drink, he directed them to the home of a family friend where there was an unattended cellar. While Ciaran didn’t drink, the Brothers ‘were pretty well under the weather’ and by the time they got back to school ‘couldn’t scratch themselves’.
That evening Ciaran was brought before the headmaster and accused of getting the Brothers drunk.
‘I said, “I took them, if they want to drink, they can have a drink. Don’t blame me, they’re adults, I’m only a kid”, because by that stage I’d grown up a lot quicker than a lot of kids that age in that era.
‘So this is another reason to get expelled. I thought, this is a great opportunity, you know, because I’d been trying to do this for four years at this stage, to get out of the place. And it just didn’t happen. And of course there were lots of situations I could take you through, but that was the era I was in. That’s what I was trying to do most of the time.’
Although after the sexual abuse, Ciaran ‘couldn’t concentrate on schoolwork’ and had to repeat the year, he eventually did well and after leaving school had no trouble finding work.
He described himself as ‘a loner’ who didn’t trust men.
He’d married young ‘to an exceptional, understanding woman’ and together they’d had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
‘I think you fill your life with something else, you know’, Ciaran said. ‘I worked extremely hard with jobs I had. I worked two jobs for a long time to pay off bills. We had to. I worked as a barman of a night time, passed as a 21-year-old when I was 18.’
In the early 2010s, Ciaran saw a man on television disclosing that he’d been sexually abused by Brother Bennett when he was a child. He felt the man was ‘belittled’ and not believed and this was the catalyst for Ciaran to ‘do something about this’.
He rang the Royal Commission but saw no point in reporting Bennett to police. Nor was he interested in pursuing avenues of counselling or redress.
‘I’ve had a pretty full life and enjoyed it … You carry on don’t you? That’s what life’s all about.’