Dan didn’t want to go to the Marist Brothers high school he was sent to in the 1980s, but his parents insisted. There were many arguments. ‘I lost the battle.’ He didn’t want to be in scouts either. At the age of 13, he was being sexually abused at both regional Victorian institutions.
At school Dan was coached after class by one of his teachers, Brother Kevin Meecham. Meecham had a bad temper. He would yell at the kids in class as well as whack them around the earhole, Dan told the Commissioner.
In their private coaching sessions, held in the classroom or at the monastery, Meecham abused Dan on a regular basis for a number of months. ‘It would start off as touching of the leg and everything, and ended up being more intrusive … oral sex, anal … up the arse, shall we say.’
Dan felt totally alone, not knowing who to turn to.
‘I remember a couple of times coming out of that monastery and just feeling totally shell-shocked, and trying to express myself properly was impossible.’
During this time, and starting shortly prior to it, Dan was also being abused by his scout leader, Greg Allenby. ‘I was in a situation that I really didn't want to be in. I wasn't interested in being in the scouts and the cubs and I was trying to tell my parents that I wasn't happy with him [Allenby] as a leader and, no, they were insisting he was a good man.’
By the following year, all the abuse had stopped but Dan was troubled.
‘I started playing up and getting kicked out of class and just general misbehaviour, bed-wetting. Looking back at things now, I consider that that was sort of acting out. But nobody else could see that, they just thought, “He's just a naughty boy”, getting kicked out of class, getting the strap and everything, and nothing was ever picked up on.’
After failing his final exams at school, Dan got the first job he could. He feels he has always been held back. ‘All the time there was just mediocrity.’ He’s had periods of depression. He attempted suicide when he was in his 20s.
‘Even then, even up to that point and for several years after, I just couldn't explain what had happened. I was at a loss and I had several weeks in the … psychiatric ward and they were … “What's wrong?” and I could only talk about things at a very general level … talking about what I have just described, I just couldn't.’
In his late 20s, Dan tried to report Allenby’s abuse to the police. They took some details over the phone and said they would ring back. He never heard from them again.
At around the same time, Dan started writing to the Catholic Provincial Brother, Patrick Dalton. In a response, Dalton wrote about Meecham, now deceased:
‘It shocked me to read to read what you said about Brother Meecham. To us he was known as a thorough gentleman. I am very sorry to hear you say that you have suffered as a result of knowing Brother Meecham. Please accept out apologies.’
Dan went to 10 sessions with a psychologist at around this time, arranged by the Marist Brothers.
‘Totally useless, no help whatsoever. The psychologist was one of the most passive people I've met, and I came away from that feeling no better than I had going into the whole thing.’
Dan disclosed to his parents. His mother defended the Church. ‘So there was really no sympathy coming from that quarter.’ However, he described his father as an ally.
Recently, Dan saw a lawyer with a view to making a compensation claim. He didn’t proceed as he had no means to pay legal fees.
He feels let down by the Catholic Church. He would still like to proceed with a claim and is now aware of the free legal service, knowmore.
‘About four years ago, I was in Italy and spent an afternoon in part of the Vatican and I thought, with the amount of money that they've spent on works there and buildings, paintings whatever else, they could have helped pay out quite a bit of compensation with all of that money. So it's just been a disgrace with the way the Church has behaved towards the kids.’