Dillan was chatting with his sister one day when she raised the subject of the Christian Brothers and the abuses they inflicted upon children. Dillan’s mood turned suddenly dark. His sister, seeing the change, asked him if he had been sexually abused while a student at a Christian Brothers’ school in Victoria in the 1970s.
Dillan said simply, ‘Yes’. When his sister pressed him for more information he said that he didn’t want to talk about it and made her swear not to tell anyone. He spent the next few days in shock. Up until this time Dillan had led a mostly happy and successful life. Now everything changed.
In a written statement, he said: ‘That word “Yes” opened a cluster of feelings that had been stored somewhere in my subconscious for the past 38 years. It is like someone had turned a key as I changed from a fun-loving guy to a man that had extreme mood swings, not sleeping due to the flashback nightmares I was experiencing, and crying from the memories that have flooded back’.
On top of this, Dillan felt bad for his sister and his wife who he also opened up to. ‘You feel that you’ve put a huge volume of weight on their shoulders as well. And that hurts in its own right.’
Despite these burdens, Dillan has lately come to believe that it was a good thing that it ‘all came out’.
‘Because I wasn’t aware that it had changed me. I’d gone through a couple of episodes of anxiety and depression which was probably heavily related to this but couldn’t put a name to it.’
Dillan sought help from a sexual abuse phone line, and the staff there got him in touch with a counsellor. He then began a course of cognitive behaviour therapy which he has found enormously helpful. Though Dillan no longer attends counselling, he continues to practise cognitive behaviour techniques in his daily life.
Overall, Dillan feels that he is doing a good job managing the psychological impacts of the abuse. He is now focused on helping others – first by working with police to ensure that the Christian Brother who abused him stays in jail for the rest of his life, and second by pushing for more practical steps to be taken to protect children, such as installing cameras in classrooms and around toilets.
‘What matters to me is that generations to come don’t have to go through what I have ... It’s still fairly prevalent in society and we need to do something about it.’