Darryl's story

As a 13-year-old, Darryl didn’t think about what Christian Brother Bill Carmichael was doing in terms of sexual abuse. He knew it was wrong and that it horrified him but it had become a routine part of class lessons. Decades later Darryl saw in the newspaper that Carmichael had been charged with sexually abusing boys in the 1970s, and reading descriptions of the crimes, he suddenly thought, ‘That’s what happened to me’.

‘I hadn’t acknowledged it,’ Darryl said. ‘It hadn’t framed itself as what it was until then … But his modus operandi … was pretty stock standard. The things that stick in my mind about what happened were that they were always public, which I now realise is what he did with most of us. So the abuse generally took place either at my desk in the classroom or actually the back of the classroom or out in the corridor. I think he enjoyed it from that point of view.’

Carmichael would masturbate Darryl, then put his arm around him and kiss him. ‘[Then] he’d tell me that it was my fault that I made him do it, because I’d been bad and that he loved me and he didn’t want me to make him have to do it.’

The Brother was violent and didn’t hesitate to thrash any student who ‘couldn’t cope’, and Darryl wondered if his academic success ‘was some sort [of] trade-off for me not saying anything’. Education was driven into him, he said, ‘through terror’.

In the mid-1970s, Carmichael was moved to another school and the abuse stopped. Darryl thought he’d been transferred after complaints from another boy’s parents. Darryl never thought to tell his parents because Carmichael was a frequent visitor to their home and he didn’t think they’d believe him. This remained a source of regret because when he disclosed the abuse years later, his mother said she would have confronted Carmichael and the school directly if she’d known.

Compounding Darryl’s sense of isolation and confusion was that, from the age of 12, he’d also been sexually abused by the parish priest. Father Laurence was another regular visitor and he’d often arrive at night when the children were in their pyjamas. Under the pretence of saying good night, he’d go into Darryl’s room and masturbate them both.

‘He used to do this at home, mainly’, Darryl said. ‘And sometimes in the sacristy getting ready for mass, the hypocrisy of which still astounds me. It is amazing what you can convince yourself to ignore.’

One evening, Father Laurence arrived at Darryl’s house when his parents were out. It occurred to the then 15-year-old that the priest was there to abuse his younger brother and not him. ‘So I offered myself up instead’, he said. That night, while he was being pursued by Laurence, Darryl suddenly turned and said it was enough. ‘I just told him, “If you lay another finger on me I will kill you”. And he got up and got dressed and went away. So obviously I turned into the type of boy I think I should have been all my life, which was one of the ones who was capable of saying no.’

After leaving school, Darryl acknowledged he was gay and realised that in spite of his strong faith he wasn’t welcome in the Catholic Church. For many years he tried to sabotage his life with ‘a lot of sex, a lot of drinking … and floating around’. Nevertheless, he built a successful career and was proud of the contribution he’d made. He rose to senior positions but always stopped short of being at the top because ‘the thing about doing that is you step out and all of a sudden you’re visible’.

In the early 2000s, Darryl claimed for the abuse by Father Laurence via the Towards Healing process. He received $65,000 from which $15,000 was deducted for Medicare costs for psychiatric support. He also received a written one-line apology from the bishop in a process he found ‘fascinating and appalling’.

‘The women did all the heavy lifting’, he said. ‘I think that is atrocious. I think the nuns that put their hands up, or were compelled to, or a bit of both, to be the front line of that are amazingly Christian women … [They] took all of my anger and all of my fury, and I never saw a male representative of the Church until we were around the table signing the documents.’

In the meeting the bishop was flanked by lawyers and although he sat opposite Darryl he neither acknowledged nor spoke to him.

Months later, Darryl reported Carmichael to Victoria Police. The Christian Brother spent years in jail after a series of charges were brought against him relating to numerous boys over decades. Police had also charged Father Laurence for sexual abuse against Darryl and eight other children. At the time of Darryl speaking with the Royal Commission, the priest was awaiting trial.

Darryl said he remained angry not only at the perpetrators of his abuse, but at those who moved them around. The government’s apology to the Stolen Generation was a good example he said, of what the Church now needed to do. An apology from Pope Francis was the starting point.

‘I think the Pope needs to do it. And then the archbishop in every state needs to do it. And the priests from the pulpit on a Sunday need to say, “This is what we did” … It will never happen again like it did. It was a perfect storm of timing, ignorance, Church power. It will never happen again, but the point is it did.’

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