Dorian's story

‘For me this is about closure … I just feel if it helps one other person it’s worth it.’

Dorian grew up in a large Catholic family in north Queensland. In the early 1980s, when Dorian was about nine, the family was befriended by the local school chaplain, Father O’Keefe. O’Keefe was in his late 60s and joked that he was ‘retired’. He visited the family home often and was popular and ‘a lot of fun to have around’.

‘This guy was seen on a pedestal’, Dorian told the Commissioner. ‘He sat at our family table, he ate meals with us.’

Dorian believes O’Keefe ‘groomed’ the whole family. O’Keefe presented Dorian’s mother with a photograph of himself with Dorian’s grandmother, taken 40 years earlier, but the focus of his attention was Dorian.

‘I smoked cigarettes when I was 10 or 11, and he constantly offered those. I look back now and think there’s no way in the world I would’ve wanted him to say anything to Mum and Dad about that.’

O’Keefe provided lollies and other treats as well. ‘That creates an underbelly moving forward of keeping secrets and hiding things. I know that now but it took me a long time to realise it.’

O’Keefe sexually abused Dorian until he was 12, assaulting him at church functions and when Dorian helped out as an altar boy. The abuse began with fondling but escalated to other sexual acts. Dorian never felt able to speak about it to anyone. He did not think he would be believed since O’Keefe was much loved and held in high esteem.

Dorian ‘kept a lid’ on the abuse for 30 years, only recently telling his mother what happened after a counsellor encouraged him to share his story. Dorian’s mother, Nancy, was shocked to hear the truth. She now recalls various incidents which make more sense in the light of Dorian’s ordeal.

Nancy recalls a phone call she received from O’Keefe when Dorian was in Year 9. Out of the blue he asked permission to take Dorian on a camp to the coast that weekend. Nancy told him it was impossible because of Dorian’s school and sport commitments. ‘He got very, very upset and stroppy, and said, “Don’t you realise I’m a lonely old man and I need him?”’

That Saturday Nancy got a phone call from the local bishop. O’Keefe had gone missing and they were wondering if she had heard from him. Nancy told the bishop how she had refused to let Dorian go with O’Keefe.

‘He said, “That’s fine. We probably know where he is now. And you did the right thing”.’

Dorian wonders now what the bishop knew about O’Keefe at the time. ‘I’d love to know if he’s been reported.’

Dorian eventually changed schools and escaped O’Keefe’s abuse. Dorian feels his life has been affected ever since. He has had trouble trusting people, and it affected his family life by creating a corner of his world he couldn’t ever share. ‘It’s not anyone’s fault, but you just don’t talk about it.’

Sport became Dorian’s obsession. He played at a high level and this has helped his self-esteem, though Dorian wonders how far he might have gone in the sporting world had he not been carrying the burden of abuse.

Dorian is enthusiastic about the counselling he has received recently. ‘You can run away from it as much as you like, but you don’t deal with it until you speak about it. The last four to five months is probably the best I’ve ever felt because I feel like I’m breaking free.’

Dorian has been working as a volunteer with a community organisation which supports children.

‘I can’t do anything about the past but I can do something about the future.’

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