‘We enjoyed the camaraderie of the boarders and the rugby and the rural youth and whatnot. We actually enjoyed aspects of the school; the school wasn’t that bad. But the dark side of that school was this disconnect from other boarders. Children had the disconnect from their parents and home and there was strange things going on. You know, you’re 12 years old and your eyes are open to what’s going on.’
At Davin’s Catholic boarding school, all the boys knew the punishment preferences for each of the Missionaries of Sacred Heart brothers.
‘If you were in trouble for some minor thing – being late or your bed wasn’t folded correctly or something – you would be given a punishment of strapping. And all the other priests and brothers would do similar things. I don’t know if I was a bad boy, but I felt like I was a bad boy because I was always getting the strap for something …
‘They all had their own implements of punishment. They all had different straps. Some were car tyres, some were leather, some were well-crafted pieces of equipment. They were all quite proud of their straps. All the boys knew what straps and what punishments each priest or brother dealt out. They were given nicknames, like the science master was called “Happy”, because the only time he was happy was when he was giving the strap. So that was the kind of background it was there.’
In the 1970s, Brother Robert Grech was housemaster of Davin’s Form 1 dormitory and he would call boys for punishment after lights out in the evening. Boys lined up in their pyjamas outside his room and waited to be called in one by one. Grech would get them to pull their pants down after which he’d touch and fondle and then strap them.
Davin told the Commissioner he thought he’d ‘got off lightly’ compared to other boys. He suspected his brother James had been more severely sexually abused by Grech.
‘He sort of changed in that time. My brother was a very good-looking boy and I remember Grech being friends with him or knowing, having some sort of personal knowledge of my brother that I didn’t at one time. So I always wondered and James has never been able to talk about it.’
After leaving school James went from being an ‘incredibly handsome and clever’ young man to an overweight ‘dark’ person. Attempts by Davin to have conversations of any depth with him were met with cynicism and dismissal.
For his part, Davin said he didn’t feel like he’d been sexually abused. ‘I’ve been molested, sort of. I was not far off it.’
As a young adult, he was left with a ‘hollow feeling’ and deep resentment towards the Catholic Church. Seeking spiritual connection he found an evangelical Christian group that espoused views including that the Catholic Church was the work of the ‘Antichrist’ and was itself a false religion. Here Davin met his wife but after many years of being together felt himself becoming increasingly sceptical about the evangelicalism preached, and both his marriage and connection with the group ended.
‘I found out later that she had been abused in this church as a teenager’, he said. “And all these things had happened, and I thought, “Well how did that affect our marriage? Would it have been better if I’d known that information right from the get-go, to put all the cards on the table?” I don’t think you can have a true, honest relationship if you don’t know everything about someone.
‘I feel like honesty is the best policy even if it’s going to cause some pain. It’s been a few interesting years for me. My interest was piqued when I heard the publicity about [the Royal Commission] and there was an opportunity to put my response in, so that’s what I did.’