Dale told the Commissioner he felt ‘on top of the world’ when the headmaster of his Catholic primary school in Sydney started singling him out and showering him with attention.
‘He would praise me, compliment me, tell me “you are the greatest”, he would say, “you are the best”, he would whisper it in my ear over and over.’
The headmaster was not only Dale’s teacher but a Catholic Brother as well, so Dale’s parents, who were devout Catholics themselves, were thrilled to see their son getting so much attention from Brother Lewis.
‘He was treated like an honored guest’, Dale recalled. ‘The family were smitten with him.’
It was the early 1970s and 11-year-old Dale was in his last year of primary school. As the year progressed, Brother Lewis’s attentions became more physical, escalating to cuddles and touching.
Then one day Brother Lewis took Dale out of class and led him upstairs to a private office. He sat Dale beside him on the desk and fondled him while masturbating himself.
‘I had never seen an erection before. I thought it was a snake or something. I just freaked out. I stopped breathing – I’m not sure I’ve ever breathed as a free man since – and I froze.
'My body just went absolutely rigid and I froze and I’ve looked back every day for the past 40 years and I so wish I had that moment again, to just run for my life and scream and just get the hell out of there. I didn’t. I didn’t for some reason and I’ve got to somehow forgive myself for that.’
The same pattern of abuse continued for the rest of the year, with Brother Lewis regularly taking Dale out of class or keeping him back after school. When Dale moved into high school Brother Lewis no longer had daily access to him, but the abuse didn’t stop.
‘He’d come on weekends and he’d take me out on these day trips and we’d usually make it as far as a bushy car park somewhere around greater Sydney area and do his thing and he’d bring me home again. I don’t remember any other part of his so-called day trips. He might have been doing sight-seeing. I certainly wasn’t. I was terrified and mortified.’
For the next two years the abuse continued. As well as the ‘day trips’ Dale was abused during several school excursions, including once on a school bus when Brother Lewis used a blanket to hide what he was doing from the driver and other students.
Looking back, Dale is certain that many adults must have known what was going on. He said that Brother Lewis would often lead him through the out-of-bounds areas of the school in full view of the other Brothers, and on one occasion one of the lay teachers entered the room when Lewis and Dale were partially undressed.
Dale also said that the sexual abuse was common knowledge amongst the boys, who bullied him as a result.
The sexual abuse continued until Dale was 14, but at that time ‘something clicked’.
‘I’ve thought: look this is too much to bear, this going on, I’m just going to risk it – if he’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me. I just can’t go on with this. I’m going to say to him I don’t want to do this anymore.’
Dale told Brother Lewis that he wanted the abuse to stop. ‘And he said, “Thank you”, he said, “That’s helped me make a very important decision that I’ve been trying to deal with”. He didn’t tell me what that was. I thought, “Great, he’s not going to do it anymore to anybody ever”.
He didn’t do it to me any more after that point, but what happened was just after that I’ve noticed him pursuing another boy. I feel terrible about that because I did nothing about it, but I felt like “Here’s my salvation: he’s going to somebody else”.’
Once the abuse stopped, Dale found that he was able to concentrate better at school and he graduated with good marks and went on to succeed at university. Psychologically, however, the abuse had a profound impact, leaving him wary and suspicious of groups of men and men in authority.
Dale still finds it difficult to talk about his experiences but he is committed to meeting the challenge.
‘I’m breaking my silence to an authority figure, the Royal Commission, and it’s a long time coming and I really want to have a witness, and this is part of my empowerment, self-empowerment, self-healing process, because this thing hasn’t gone away after 40 years and in fact it’s imploding more and more as the years go on, despite having my own family now.’