David still can’t bring himself to tell his 83-year-old grandmother any details of the abuse he suffered as a child.
When his parents divorced in the 1960s, David told the Commissioner, his mother had little choice but to place her two boys into a Lutheran home for children, while the boys attended the local primary school.
Gerard Roach was a worker at the facility charged with care of the children each Wednesday night, to relieve the full-time staff while they enjoyed a night off from their duties. David recalls that Roach had an ‘obvious penchant’ for young children. David had witnessed the night worker molesting a little girl.
‘He then did the same to me. He sat me on his knee and began to manipulate my genitals. I didn’t know what in the world was happening to me. I was molested a number of times.’
David told the Commissioner that he still has flashbacks to the night when Roach drove a small group of young boys to a swimming pool where there were a number of naked men walking around.
‘I do remember quite clearly asking him why we’re not taking our bathers and he said, “You will not be needing them”. I could swim quite well and was never scared of the water, but I was quite scared of what might be going to happen to me.’
One by one, the naked boys were pushed into the water where the naked men waited. Many children couldn’t swim, and so had little choice but to cling to the men.
Fuelled by adrenaline, David managed to swim back to the side of the pool, clamber out, and run back to a dressing room where he hid in a cubicle.
‘I remember Roach followed me calling, “David, where are you?” When he found me, he pushed me to the ground. I glanced up and saw another man with grey hair, and as Roach held me down I could feel a sharp, excruciating pain in my bottom. After some time I blacked out and the next thing I remember is Roach carrying me into my room at the home.’
As a young teenager, David ended up at a Catholic boys’ home after breaking the law.
With memories of the abuse from Roach still raw, David faced a new wave of abuse, this time at the hands of a Brother in the home.
‘He used to get great joy out of thrashing us, and what he did with the cane was in my opinion a sexual assault as well.’
To this day David feels embarrassed and ashamed of the abuse he suffered. He blames ongoing depressive outbursts for the breakdown of his marriage and loss of contact with his children for 25 years. For the past six years, he’s been homeless.
He holds hope of Roach being held accountable for his actions, and of asking him a long-burning question.
‘I want to just look him in the eye and say, “Why did you do what you did to me, and do you know what effect it’s had on me in my life and others?” I just wish it would go away, but I’ve got to take it to the grave with me.’