Even though they weren’t Catholic, Edwin and his older brothers were sent to board at a Christian Brothers college in regional Western Australia in the 1930s. Their father wanted them to get a good education, and ‘our mum was desperately ill’.
When Edwin was 10 years old his mother died, and he was surprised at the lack of sympathy and support shown by the school. Brother Lennon befriended Edwin soon afterwards. ‘He seemed a very personable person, friendly, he was well-disposed towards me.’
Lennon offered him sympathy over the loss of his mother, and invited him into his room. ‘He’d sort of get very close in his approach to me, physically ... Very close up. And he’d reach out a hand and say, oh it must be awful.’
It was not unusual for one of the Brothers to check on the boys in their dormitory at night, coming around with a torch to ensure ‘everything was in order’. When Lennon was on duty, ‘he’d come up close to my bed, and sort of kneel down next to me and say, “Are you alright?”’
Over a period of time, these interactions escalated.
‘His hand would come in under my bedding, and he’d sort of stroke my stomach ... It developed from there, to where he was approaching my genital area, lower, lower, and a little bit of that, you know, you alright? That sort of stroking, stroking, like a little pussycat ... waiting for me to purr.’
Edwin ‘can’t quite recall my reaction, my attitude’ to being touched by Lennon. ‘I didn’t scream or yell or anything. And here’s a little orphan kid, you know, really pleading for comfort, and somebody seems to understand’. This abuse happened many times, and progressed to Lennon placing Edwin’s hands onto his own penis, and attempting to make Edwin masturbate him.
‘He was in his pyjamas, and then led my hand gently to his genital area. And then softly, softly, over a period of time, hold this, do that ... He was anxious for me to, how do I say, give him total relief, get me to do what’s necessary.’
Edwin’s response was to ‘mentally turn off, to an extent where this is not happening, therefore I will make no physical response ... Just don’t do anything, just freeze. Do not respond. I mean I was appalled by the fact it was happening, but here I was’. His only defence ‘was to be totally negative ... My left hand and arm, they were just like pieces of limp rag’.
After a month or two, Lennon stopped bothering Edwin. ‘It just got to where I just rejected him in any communication, and I just looked through him, he wasn’t there.’
Edwin believes that Lennon was also abusing two or three other boys, all of whom were not Catholic. He wonders whether this was perhaps because Lennon’s conscience was less disturbed than if he’d abused a Church member, or because he could be sure that the non-Catholic boys would not disclose during confession.
The college was evacuated when the war broke out, and the boys sent to a different school to continue their studies. Lennon accompanied them there, and Edwin got into a fight with him.
When the war ended, Lennon stayed at this school while Edwin returned to his former college. Edwin went on to become a sporting champion, as well as a leader in the school community. Once he had discovered his strengths in these areas he was better able to ‘mentally turn off’.
After school Edwin got on with his life, and tried to ‘shut the door’ on the abuse, but still experienced feelings of guilt and shame. He was always very protective of his own children when they were young, and has only told his current wife about his experiences at boarding school in general terms.
Edwin did not report the sexual abuse by Lennon to his brothers, father, police or other authorities. At the time, he feared what action his father may take – ‘I think he’d have got down and he’d have beaten that guy to a pulp’. Nor has he considered applying for compensation. ‘I’m not the least interested. Compensate for what, the loss of innocence? ... Life is life.’