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Emery's story

Emery was a 13-year-old boarder at a regional New South Wales Christian Brothers school when he was first abused by Brother Matthew. In a statement to the Royal Commission, he wrote: 'We lined up in a queue and as a shower became available, Brother Matthew would direct you to the shower … He was standing in the doorway acting as traffic control to let you in. He made a motion with his right hand as if to tell me to go. As I walked passed him, he stopped me with his left hand, which he put on my genitals, over the towel. He put his hand down between my legs, on my penis, as if to stop me.

'I stood back in shock and he laughed it off, and made it out as if it was an accident. He was smiling like a Cheshire cat.'

Initially Emery decided it was just a mishap – 'Though it felt a bit creepy'. But the touching continued.

‘Almost daily. Every opportunity he got, he would touch my genital area or backside. It made me feel uncomfortable and when it would happen, I would step back. Brother Matthew would always laugh it off, like it was a mistake. But it just happened too often.

'I remember another incident … I was close to last in the line. As I got up to go in the shower I stopped in front of him; he put his hand on my backside and squeezed my butt cheek. I jumped forward and turned around, and went to swipe his hand away and he made a joke of it, saying something like I "shouldn’t be so slow!"'

Formerly a keen student, Emery's performance crashed: 'As soon as these incidents started occurring, my grades went from the top five per cent to the bottom five per cent.'

The idea of seeking help at school simply didn't occur. 'The fear of retribution would have been too high. Physical punishment was meted out daily. It was highly structured – an army camp or a prison camp is the best way I could describe it.

'I don't think we understood sexual assault. We just knew that what he was doing was weird and wrong. I had no concept that a man would get any sexual gratification in a boy.'

The abuse went on for six months – until Emery snapped. Matthew was reaching once again for the boy's genitals under the pretence of applying an ointment – and instead got a punch in the face.

'It was instinctive – I pushed and punched him at the same time. I pulled my pyjamas back up and stepped to the door. I pointed a finger at him and said, "Don’t you ever touch me again".

'It wasn't courageous , it was fearful. I was an animal in a corner and the only way I could stop this was the way my father taught me, which was to pop him on the head.'

Matthew never attempted to molest Emery again, 'but from that point on his attitude towards me completely changed. He became nasty and vindictive, and took every opportunity to cause me difficulties'.

After the punching incident, Emery found the courage to speak with someone he could trust. 'I told my mum – and she said I was lying, and making it up in order for me to come home and to be schooled locally. She was disgusted that I would make such accusations against a man of the cloth. Mum was very religious …'

After that Emery would not disclose what had been done to him for more than 30 years – 'If my mother won't believe me there's no point telling anyone else'. Instead he looked for another way to leave the school.

'I embarked on a process of getting myself kicked out. This culminated with me stealing cars when I was 15, and waiting to get caught.'

He achieved his ambition, though the upshot was not at all expected. 'My dad chucked some furniture in the back of the ute, then drove us to Sydney, got me into a shared apartment with a young apprentice … and drove off.'

His father, an alcoholic who beat up his wife (and Emery if he got in the way), was convinced his son was a no-hoper: 'He always said I'd never amount to anything'. Emery was determined to prove him wrong. After getting a part-time job, he approached a nearby Catholic college and persuaded the principal to let him complete his HSC.

Emery went on to have a successful career in the education sector, but his personal life was affected by the molestation as a 13-year-old.

'I couldn't wait to have children. I wanted a family, I was 19 when my first was born. And looking back, this was a way of proving that I wasn't homosexual, that I was normal and wasn't gay.'

Now in his mid-40s, he never disclosed the abuse until he saw a news item about Matthew being charged with historical child abuse. This led to conversation with some schoolboy friends, during which the topic was touched on gingerly. 'He said that Matthew had "tried it on" – and I said, "same". We never went into any details.'

However, both of them later joined other complainants in a case against Matthew who, some years ago, received a substantial jail sentence.

Emery is hopeful that more has been achieved than retribution for individual offenders. 'Back then we didn't understand or believe that men of the cloth would do that sort of thing … Today it's a different world. If a child were to go to somebody in authority, and say "This person touched me", the likelihood of them being believed and action taken would be almost 100 per cent.'

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