‘I’m not saying anybody made me do what I’ve done in my life but I would have loved to have education. I would have loved to have a real job and I would love to be a happy person. It’s getting better but there’s a lot of things that I wish I had which was taken away from me when I should have been educated and not abused.’
Curtis ‘felt special’ when sports coach Mr Dowell noticed him at his Christian Brothers school and became friendly towards him. When Curtis was 11 and in Grade 5, Dowell would often step in as a casual teacher and over a period of time he let Curtis drive his car and smoke cigarettes. He became Curtis’s ‘idol’.
Combined with the attention however, Dowell was also physically abusive towards Curtis, often strapping him and this gradually had the effect of making him scared.
Over a period of a year, Dowell’s physical abuse continued and he then began to sexually abuse Curtis, making him perform oral sex and eventually raping him.
Dowell visited Curtis’s home and befriended the family. After a time Curtis’s mother noticed her son’s behaviour change dramatically. He’d act out, constantly run away from school and injure himself in an attempt not to have to attend classes.
In the late 1970s, Curtis was 13 when Mr Dowell suddenly disappeared. Curtis said that despite the sexual abuse he’d been subjected to, he felt abandoned.
‘He was my whole world. Even if I think of him now, automatically my mind thinks, goodness. It’s weird. He was such an important person in my life and for him to just disappear with no assembly, no goodbyes, no nothing. He just went.’
After Dowell left, Curtis was further physically abused by other Brothers and teachers at the school. He was also filmed by an older student and believed that the footage was distributed around a paedophile network that operated at the school.
Curtis eventually left the school and continued his education at a local high school.
After Dowell’s sudden departure, Curtis saw him once when he was at a sporting event. He was surprised that Dowell wasn’t pleased to see him.
In the late 1990s Curtis reported the abuse to the Christian Brothers. He received counselling funded by the organisation but it was ‘drip-fed’ and he often had to ask for more. There was no suggestion that Curtis report the abuse to the police.
‘My life was okay before I became involved with the Catholic Church with what happened to me. I thought I was doing the right thing for myself. If I had my day again, I wouldn’t have made any statements. I would have shut my mouth like everyone else.’
Curtis felt that as a result of the abuse he’d been severely disadvantaged in acquiring education and social skills and connections. He’d had psychotic episodes, significant drug issues, angry and violent outbursts, suicide attempts and had spent periods in jail. His relationships with his children have been severely strained at times.
‘I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a book in my life and that’s just sad. I can’t sit there and read stories to my daughters because I don’t know what I’m looking at. You can’t get that back.’