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Damon Paul's story

Damon’s mother was a devout Catholic and his aunt was a nun associated with the family’s parish church in Victoria. Damon described himself as happy and confident when he started primary school and for years he enjoyed sport and learning.

In the 1970s, he was in Year 6 at his De La Salle school when he was taught by Brother Preece, a man he described as cruel and frightening.

Preece sexually abused Damon and most if not all boys in the class, but ‘everyone was too frightened to say anything’. Under the guise of checking boys’ work, Preece would fondle their genitals. Damon recalled buying a tight belt in the hope of avoiding further abuse but the Brother still managed to get two fingers down his shorts. The assaults occurred many times over a period of years.

‘I couldn’t believe it happened in a classroom’, Damon said. ‘I look back at it now and I just go, how can it happen in a classroom? If it happened outside of the school or outside of the classroom maybe I might have got myself an education and got over it in some way. Maybe, I don’t know. The fact that it ruined my education angers me so much. Especially because I had potential and was keen. I was interested.’

Damon lost his enjoyment of learning as well as his confidence. He described himself as ‘living in a fantasy world where everything was going right’ and through this, would detach from what was going on around him. This strategy, as well as hiding from the Brothers, were his ways of coping. He didn’t ever tell anybody about the abuse.

Poor self confidence continued after Damon left school. His education was ‘ruined’ and he had to teach himself simple learning tasks. He struggled greatly in relationships and feels still that he is ‘making life very hard’ for his current partner. He doesn’t have any friends and described himself currently as depressed. He said that although he isn’t on medication or currently having counselling, he probably should be.

‘I still have such negative, cynical views about everything. It’s just hopeless and I’ve got to change my thought process, and I try to.’

Damon went to university as a mature age student in his late 30s. He obtained a bachelor’s degree but found it hard to secure a job, because he was ‘a mess’ emotionally. He feels the need to often move and get ‘a fresh start’.

In the late 2000s, Damon settled a claim against the De La Salle Brothers. He received $100,000 after legal fees of $10,000, and a letter of apology after a mediation process that he said was not great. He is considering making a second approach to the Brothers.

Damon told his mother about the abuse in the early 2010s. He said it took so long to tell her because he believed that because she was a devout Catholic, she wouldn’t believe him. He was surprised to hear her say she was ‘disgusted’ by the school’s lack of action against Preece.

Damon was aware Preece has served jail time for child sex offences in Victoria and another state of Australia. He has no plans to go to the police and report Preece.

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