‘As forgiving person as I am, and I know the man’s dead, I can’t forgive … because … it’s a crime that there can be no coming back from.’
Derrick was one of many children growing up in a devout Catholic family in the 1960s. After his father died, his mother became unable to look after the children and their grandfather decided they should attend boarding school.
Derrick began at a Salesian boarding school when he was 13 years old. He found the school culture brutal.
‘You’d get smacked across the face and it’d make your ears rattle [and] for minor infractions … a stick across your knuckles … [They] broke my nose.’
The boys didn’t report any of the violence and physical abuse.
‘It was unthinkable. If you were caught – that’s how I got my nose broken … I was making a joke … They were Jesus’s representatives and that was it … The only counsellor you got was the cane.’
Father Stanton, the headmaster, sexually abused Derrick.
‘He enticed me into his office. It was on a weekend … He predated on me at an opportune time.’
After making Derrick sit on his lap, Father Stanton would become sexually aroused.
‘When he put his hands down my … shorts I thought, “This is weird” … he ran [his hands] around my genitals …
‘He was a powerful man and he just embraced me like into a bear hug … I couldn’t believe it. I was just a kid.’
When Derrick screamed, another student heard him and ran into the room. Stanton was ‘startled and let go of his grip and I took off’.
The headmaster never pursued Derrick again, and at the time Derrick didn’t tell anyone about the incident.
‘I desperately wanted to tell Mum … but I knew how she would react … My grandfather would have beaten the hell out of me because [he] was a devout Catholic … It was just inconceivable to believe that a priest could do anything wrong.’
When Derrick left school he returned to his mother, but had difficulty finding work or staying in a job when he did find one.
‘I was never right in terms of, there was something missing in me. I lost faith completely in the religion … to the point of hatred … I felt absolutely betrayed and that it was just worthless, pointless. It’s a lie.
‘They educated me … but they also educated in another way.’
Derrick told his older siblings about the abuse when he was 18 years old and they have all been supportive. However, he began drinking and smoking marijuana.
‘I was trying to escape something that I didn’t know what it was.’
Later in life he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and he takes medication every day to control the symptoms.
‘Without them [the medication], I couldn’t even be here.’
He often has low periods where he dwells on the abuse.
‘It seems to rear its ugly head. I could be going fine and then I’ll start having dreams of that incident like I’ve never left school. To this day, I’ve never left school.’
Derrick’s abuser is dead which means Derrick can’t pursue criminal charges. He is seeking compensation from the Salesians but knows that a financial outcome won’t feel like justice.
‘What does 46 years of my life equate to?’
Derrick has a daughter who he is very proud of and he continues to see a counsellor, although he believes that there is, ‘No finer counsel than your family who know’ what has happened. He has also regained his faith which has helped him build the strength he requires to pursue compensation.
‘I do not blame God anymore … I’ve restored my faith in the Lord Jesus …
‘I’m not fearful of them [the Salesians] anymore.’