When Dillon was very young his father died, leaving his mother to look after a large family and a demanding business. In time she suffered a mental breakdown. At this point, when Dillon’s mother was at her most vulnerable, his aunty started ‘making trouble’.
‘She called the local Catholic Irish priest claiming that my mother was going to convert us to the faith of my father, a Protestant. In 1960, the hate between the Catholics and the Protestants was poison, and with an estate worth over a hundred thousand pounds … the stakes were high.’
After his chat with Dillon’s aunty, the local priest contacted Father James, the head of the Catholic Child Welfare Bureau. Father James filed legal proceedings and gained power of attorney over the estate as well as guardianship over Dillon and his siblings. Dillon’s mother was sent to a mental institution. She never managed to reclaim her estate and her children never saw a penny of that money.
But back then, the kids had other things to worry about. Dillon recalled the moment when they came to take him away. ‘The police raided the house, shooting the family dog and kicked down the front door, took me away and placed me in the orphanage.’
He spent the next 10 years living in various Catholic children’s homes where he was neglected and brutalised by the nuns. Eventually, in his early teens, he returned to live with his mother and two of his brothers and enjoyed a happy family life for the next year or so. Then his eldest brother, Frank, moved in.
‘This became a nightmare. He had many personal problems. He would take all our money and make us wait on him hand and foot.’
Frank threatened Dillon’s mother, confined Dillon and the other siblings to their rooms, handcuffed them on occasion and belted them with a strap. Dillon became more and more frightened and traumatised over time and eventually, at age 14, he sought help from two local priests, Father Stone and Father Langley.
He said that Father Langley ‘was supportive and gave me gifts which I was not used to … He would take me driving, inviting me to stay at the presbytery. I was so relieved to get away from home’.
One night at the presbytery, Father Langley got Dillon drunk and masturbated him while masturbating himself. Many more incidents of similar abuse occurred over the next year and a half. At one point Dillon reported the abuse to Father Stone. Stone listened but took no action. Looking back, Dillon believes this is because the priest was a very trusting man who ‘always tried to look for the best in people’ and, as a result, did not understand the severity of the situation.
Months later, Dillon spoke to Father Stone about his violent home life. This time Stone took action and arranged for Dillon to live with the parents of another student. After making this move, Dillon managed to escape his brother’s violence and Langley’s abuse.
Dillon stayed in the house until he finished school. He then entered the workforce, built a good career, married and had several kids. During this time he coped with the legacy of the abuse by ignoring it. ‘I learned to cut myself off from it, to black it out. If you ask my wife, I talk in generalities. This is the first time I’ve actually gone into quite a bit of detail.’
In the early 2000s, he saw a TV interview with Cardinal Pell that inspired him to take action against the Catholic Church. In the interview, Pell made some comments about victims of child sexual abuse. Dillon said, ‘The Cardinal’s response made me angry. As a practising Catholic I felt he did not understand the issue, so I decided, after consulting with my wife, I would seek legal advice’.
Dillon entered into a difficult process of negotiation with the Church. He said the Monsignor in charge of his case was antagonistic from the outset, even though he knew that Langley was a convicted paedophile; and he remained antagonistic even after Dillon’s story was vindicated by two psychologists. In other words, ‘He was a bastard. He was an absolute mongrel’.
Dillon ended up receiving a written apology and a payment in excess of $100,000, including legal costs. He thinks that payment was inadequate and the Church ‘got off light’. But Dillon’s strongest criticism is reserved for the legal system.
In the late 2000s, when Dillon was in court in relation to a financial matter, lawyers for the other side saw the compensation payment in his bank account and, during cross-examination in open court, asked him to explain it. Dillon refused until the judge forced him to answer.
Dillon said that having to reveal his history of abuse to strangers in a hostile atmosphere triggered a complex post-traumatic stress disorder that he’s still dealing with today. On top of that, he was so rattled by the incident that he couldn’t perform properly in the witness box and ended up losing the case. Financially, he was ruined. It was this experience that motivated him to contact the Royal Commission.
‘I want to tell my story because I want to change the legal system and the way it operates, because of the impact it had on us. It’s not only impacted on me, but my whole family.’