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Emanuel's story

‘In [the 1970s] when it first happened to me, we were talking about stranger danger. No one ever said, “Oi, what about your neighbour or family friend?”’

Emanuel grew up in Sydney during the 1970s. His family was involved with their local Catholic church and Emanuel was an altar boy and attended Catholic primary school, taking part in all their events and services. He was happy at school and loved to learn.

A family friend and neighbour, Thomas Capriati, was often at the family home and over a five year period, sexually abused Emanuel.

Emanuel’s behaviour changed and he became aggressive and was constantly in trouble. By 10, he was regularly running away from school, but in spite of this his grades didn’t suffer.

In the early 1980s, he moved to a Christian Brothers school. His behaviour didn’t improve he was often in the office of principal, Stephan Bedzin, who sexually abused him.

Emanuel didn’t tell anyone about the abuse. He continued to abscond from school and at some point asked his parents if he could go to boarding school.

They agreed, and when Emanuel was 12 he enrolled in a Catholic boarding school in a regional New South Wales town. During the six years he was there he came into contact with Frederik Cox, a teacher and dormitory master.

They both disliked another teacher, Samuel Ottaviani, who Emanuel described as a ‘strict, cruel man’. Ottaviani hated Emanuel ‘from day one’ and whenever Ottaviani punished him, Cox was always there to stick up for him.

When Emanuel was 16, Cox started abusing him. It started with being called into an office where Cox masturbated and performed oral sex on him. This happened several times over a year until Emanuel told Cox to stop.

After that, Emanuel tried to avoid Cox. His grades dropped and he finished high school with average results. He then moved back to Sydney and severed all ties with his friends and the Catholic Church.

‘From the day I left that school I’ve never been back to a Catholic Church.’

In his adult years, Emanuel found it difficult to trust people, and he continues to find relationships difficult. He described feeling ‘guilty and dirty’ after sex, something he still struggles with. He tends to isolate himself, not wanting anyone to ‘get close’, and he feels like he doesn’t belong.

‘You see other people doing things and enjoying things in a social setting but you can’t slot yourself in there easily.’

In the early 2010s, police visited Emanuel and told him they had arrested Frederik Cox on child sexual abuse charges. They’d found a note from Emanuel in Cox’s wallet and when asked about it, Emanuel said he’d written it when he was 16 and denied that he’d been abused by Cox. After they left, Emanuel had a ‘breakdown’ and decided to speak again to police.

‘It’s a surprise to have something come back at you after three decades. [Especially] when you don’t want to think about any of those places.’

At Cox’s trial, Emanuel was called as a witness and had the satisfaction of seeing him convicted and jailed on several counts of assault. Emanuel also reported Stephan Bedzin, who he’d found out had already been convicted for child sexual abuse. He’s currently awaiting the police response to this report. He’s never reported Thomas Capriati because his mother is best friends with his wife.

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