Edwin and his siblings were adopted into a loving family in regional Victoria in the 1960s. Their parents were Catholic, and the children attended local Catholic schools. Edwin was an altar boy, and he became involved with the nearby monastery when Brother Shipley asked if he and his brother and father could help out when the Brothers held retreats.
‘He’d just ring my parents and say, “I need Edwin to help me with such and such tomorrow”, so I’d end up staying there. That was quite often.’ Shipley would reward Edwin with little treats. He would allow him to make sponge cakes to take home, or give him a packet of frozen donuts.
When Edwin stayed overnight, Shipley began to sexually abuse him. The inappropriate touching began the first night he stayed there, and happened many times, both in the room next to Shipley’s where Edwin slept, and in the television room down the hall. Edwin would lock the door of the television room, but Shipley had a key.
After he’d left the room, Edwin would hear him in his own bedroom, ‘pleasuring himself’.
There was another boy who sometimes stayed at the monastery and he would always ask Edwin to stay the night when he was there. Edwin believes that this boy was probably abused by Shipley too and wanted Edwin to protect him from further abuse.
‘Sometimes, Brother Shipley actually threatened me … He’d come in and I’d be facing the wall, and he’d say, “Look, if you don’t do this, I’ll have to tell your parents and you’ll be sent back to the orphanage”.’
Edwin said, ‘I used to be an outgoing child, but once I was involved with Brother Shipley, I had no friends … I think now, because of what he did, what he was doing, was a lot of the reason why I failed school, and why I left home in the first place’.
When Edwin was 16, he could no longer cope with the abuse, so he phoned an older man he knew in Sydney, and asked him to come and get him. ‘Things were okay for a while, and then he started selling me.’
Edwin was involved in a number of abusive relationships as an adult, and was badly traumatised by being gang-raped after a night out in Melbourne. He had a breakdown, and spent the next three years drinking. When that led to financial difficulties, he moved back home with his parents.
Because he doesn’t watch television, Edwin was not aware of the Royal Commission. It was only when his father saw a program about a group of children who’d been sexually abused by Shipley that he questioned Edwin. ‘It just hit me like a brick. Everything came back. But more and more is coming back every day and yeah, it just floored me when he said, “Did this happen to you?” and I said, “Yes”.’
Edwin only started talking about the abuse after he contacted the advocacy service, Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA). ‘I think it’s helped in a way. I was very suicidal after the rape. I attempted suicide on several occasions. I haven’t had that since I’ve been talking to [CASA] and also … my psychiatrist, but just lately, with everything that’s going on … it has come back a bit.’
Edwin told the Commissioner that he couldn’t have reported the abuse when it happened. ‘It’s like it was unheard of back then … It’s only over the last 10 years … before then, they were the next thing to God, so you never said anything against them … I wish there had been something to help me back then, but I’m lucky, I have my family.’