In the early 2010s Edmond reached a crossroads in his life. Up until this point he had been able to lie to himself, pretending that he was strong and well. But then more and more memories of the abuse came back to him, flashing like light bulbs. He felt weak and haunted. His relationships splintered, he lost his faith, he couldn’t hold down a job.
‘In short’, he said in a written statement, ‘my psychological, emotional and personal growth was stopped and I was completely shocked into a form of shut-down’.
Edmond decided that he had only two options left: confront the problem or kill himself. ‘So I just turned around’, he said ‘and ran towards the problem’.
In his memory he went back to the 1970s when he was a nine-year-old student at a Catholic school. Brother Laurie was a charismatic teacher who bought him gifts, secured him special opportunities at school and visited his home in the evenings while his mother worked.
Three times a week for three years Brother Laurie visited Edmond at home to sexually abuse him. ‘In my bed in my bedroom in my home are some of the darkest visions and recollections that still truly haunt me on a daily basis’, Edmond said.
He remembered the weight of Brother Laurie sitting on his bed ‘and the intense feeling of dread wondering when he was going to start to do stuff to me’. He remembered the sensation of being trapped by the man’s body. He remembered:
‘The horrible driving of his tongue all around inside of my mouth, really hard, and down the back of my throat. In some ways that part seems even more of deep personal rape than a digital rape; open mouth kissing while driving his tongue all around the inside of my mouth and throat like he was “exploring” and “taking” something from me. It was horrible.’
Having dragged these awful memories into the light and faced them, Edmond realised that he wasn’t going to cope without professional help. He commenced counselling but quickly realised that he couldn’t afford to keep it up long term. Already his wife was working ‘twice as many hours as she should be’ to financially support him and their young kids. So Edmond decided to sue the Catholic Church.
It turned out to be an ugly, cynical and re-traumatising process, not only because of the Church’s response, but also because of the way Edmond’s own lawyer behaved. From the outset, Edmond and the lawyer had very different ideas of how to proceed. Although Edmond wanted to be able to pay for his counselling, money wasn’t his main concern.
‘I was looking a lot further than that, into a healing process, a real journey, where everyone could maybe win.’ He wanted to effect a reconciliation with the school, healing himself and restoring his faith while also helping the school to improve its practices.
His lawyer dismissed the notion out of hand and executed his own money-focused strategy, barely consulting with Edmond along the way. At the time of Edmond’s session with the Royal Commission, this strategy had almost reached its end point. Edmond was offered a settlement figure of $380,000 and the lawyer, who is set to take $200,000 in legal fees, was urging him to accept.
The sum, Edmond said, ‘is far less than what would make a real difference, relieve the pressure, let me go and grieve and get my head together for several years so that I can be better value as a person to my family, for a start, let alone the bills’.
Still, he suspects that he’ll have to accept it anyway. The alternative is to prolong the legal battle, and that’s something Edmond is too exhausted to even contemplate.
In the meantime, Edmond copes by drawing on the support of his wife and counsellor and by reframing his trauma as something positive and meaningful.
‘I’m at a stage now where I really have achieved a new degree of clarity about the reality of my true life, and tried to make some sense of that and quantify it to some extent, I suppose for myself, what it all means. It’s been a tragedy but it won’t be for nothing if I’m sharing this information with you.’