Elliot Francis's story

‘My [story] is on the consequences of resistance of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious orders. I was a person who never submitted, and always punched me way out of it, but the consequences were just as damning.’

Elliot was brought up in the 1950s in Victoria, in a strict Catholic family. He was an altar boy at 11 ‘and very religious in those days’. After numerous attempts by clergy to sexually abuse him, one day in his teens Elliot walked out of church and said, ‘I’m never going in again’.

Elliot was first assaulted when he was an altar boy, by a priest. Elliot refused to serve mass with him again. He then met another priest, Father Brian, in the schoolyard. ‘I immediately took a liking to [him] because he had that charisma about him.’

The family lived across the road from the church and Father Brian became a frequent house guest. ‘He stayed in my sister’s room. She was away at boarding school. I woke up and he got into bed with me … like, he just embraced me and was probably kissing my back …’

Because his parents’ bedroom was just down the hallway from his, Elliot thought that ‘it was one of the things they do with Catholic Church kids. So that was the end of me and me father … We fell out and the rebellion set in from there’.

Father Brian took Elliot fishing quite often. ‘He was actually grooming me … I didn’t even know what a homosexual was … But I feared him, and I was a thousand yards up the river, moving all the time.’

Elliot recalled that, when he was 13, a classmate talked about being brutalised by a priest. ‘I remember [him] explaining it to me … and I had no concept of what he was talking about. I was that naive.’

One day after mass Father Brian turned up at the house. Elliot ‘knew it was dangerous when he said to Mum, “We’ll camp out”, and it was. It was a very violent confrontation. It was a sexual assault, but I had to punch my way out of that, and I was forced to go to confession that night’. The church was opened just so Elliot could make his confession.

Elliot told the Commissioner, ‘my words were, “I’ve had impure actions with a Catholic priest” which is absolutely … didn’t happen, but I said that. Got me penance and walked out of that church’. That was when Elliot made the decision not to enter a church again.

At the time Elliot was still at his boarding school, ‘where it’s mandatory to go to church every morning’, so that decision caused problems for him.

When Elliot was in the sick bay one day one of the Marist Brothers attempted to sexually assault him. ‘It was the closest thing you’d get to rape. He just grabbed me from behind … He’s started dry humping me … I thought, “What’s going on?” It was like a machine on me back. And I started … fighting … And he was extraordinarily strong and he’s just humping away …’ Elliot managed to escape and ran out of the building as fast as he could.

Elliot was a good sportsman, and he asked his coach if he could do weights to improve his fitness. He never played another game. Elliot found out years later that the coach was molesting children in the weights room.

‘At the time, he perceived me to be a danger. He was bashing kids so badly, he was knocking them unconscious in class … He thought I wasn’t scared of him. I was petrified of him … He was so dangerous’. The coach told Elliot, ‘I won’t hit you, but you won’t play … again’.

Elliot told the Commissioner, ‘I had to sacrifice my [sport] because of that. People mightn’t think that’s important, but it’s very important to me because I wasn’t any good scholastically … So they took that away from me’.

After the coach left, Elliot went back to playing sport, but ‘by then, my attitude is so bad, I’m dropped from the … side again. I refused to attend mass. They used to cane me relentlessly while I was in bed. I wouldn’t even get up … I was quiet and well-behaved in class. I just wouldn’t go to mass’.

Once he left school, Elliot continued to play sport but ‘by this stage I was starting to implode … I was starting to drink spirits excessively. I refused to play under the seniors’ coach … because … he had strong Catholic values and I was just allergic to hypocrisy … Then I just drank myself into such oblivion over two years’. He ended up in a mental health facility, where he was given shock treatment and medication.

‘I turned into a very dangerous, dribbling zombie and that’s when I really went off the rails. I started assaulting police … I was rolling cars … I had the cops on me … all the time.’ Elliott eventually began to turn his life around, but, ‘I lived basically my whole life, until 14 months ago, chronically alcoholic’. He blames himself for his parents’ early deaths.

Father Brian was eventually convicted for the sexual abuse of children. Elliot was able to provide the police with a statement, and although his case never made it to court, the evidence he provided was given credence. ‘I felt proud that I did something to contribute to him pleading guilty.’

At the end of his session Elliot commented that, now he has given up alcohol, ‘I’m sort of rejoicing in sobriety. I’m getting a lot more out of life … it’s good to be free of the yoke of alcoholism’.

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