Eoin was living in a regional Western Australian town and attending the local Catholic school.
‘At the age of 11, I was sexually abused at my Christian Brothers school. I was in Year 6 at the time and the incident occurred at school during a lunch break.’
He had begun to feel ill during lunch and spoke to Brother Maxwell who was on playground duty. Brother Maxwell directed him to follow him to a class room. He was led to a dark room attached to a classroom but away from the rest of the children and staff.
‘Brother Maxwell took me into the back room and didn’t turn the lights on. [He] told me to take my shorts down and I remember it felt very sinister and I felt very afraid. Brother Maxwell seemed to be pretending to be a doctor and proceeded to examine me with his hands.
‘He started by touching my stomach and continued to touch my lower body. He then used his hands to fondle my genitals.’
Eoin felt afraid and was intimidated by the strict physical discipline employed in the school.
‘At our school the Brothers were very strict and used physical discipline to control us. We were caned or hit with a metal ruler if it was perceived we had misbehaved. On one occasion a Brother punched me in the face in the classroom.’
It was made worse by Eoin’s father who was also a strict disciplinarian.
‘I was too afraid to tell anyone what happened to me. I don’t think anyone would believe me.’
When he was 28 years old, he finally told his parents about the abuse.
‘I told my parents and they were shocked and disappointed that their church who they had entrusted with the care of their son had not kept me safe.’
He was encouraged by his parents’ support and decided to report the abuse to police.
‘It was difficult for me to talk to the police at the child abuse unit, because I was asked to give my statement in a room that was set up for children. There were all toys all over the room and I was a 28 year old grown male at the time. It made me feel devalued and uncomfortable. I just wanted to get out of there.’
The police investigated Eoin’s case and found that the Brother was living interstate and was still teaching.
‘It really, really worries me that this man still has access to innocent children.’
When the police interviewed Brother Maxwell he admitted to the examination of Eoin but stated that it was because of appendicitis. Due to the limited evidence available to support Eoin’s case, the police couldn’t charge the Brother with the abuse. They have though, left the matter open so if any supporting witnesses or evidence does become available, it can be followed up.
In the 1990s Eoin contacted Towards Healing to register his abuse with the Catholic Church.
‘The woman who I spoke with … made me feel like I had done something wrong. I found her manner towards me aggressive and intimidating. I made the decision not to pursue my matter further with Towards Healing because it did not feel safe or respectful … There was definitely no apology … and I was not offered any support or counselling.’
Eoin is very critical of the culture of his old school and the Brothers who were abusive and violent towards the students.
‘The Brothers carried an aura about them of disapproval, superiority and detachment towards us … They never seemed happy and there was never a genuine mutual feeling of connection of positive regard between us.’
He also believes that children need to be educated about their bodies and their right to stay safe from abuse.
‘If I had been taught about my right to be safe and protected from abuse, I would have learnt the language as a child to know who I could have spoken to for help and I wouldn’t be so afraid to speak up.’
The abuse has significantly affected Eoin’s life across family, relationships and work.
‘The abuse … has left me with an inferiority complex and has affected me throughout my life. I have suffered with a low self-esteem and have found that I have been the target of bullying throughout my professional life which has been very distressing.’
He has had a succession of intimate relationships but is now a single parent and is currently unemployed and having difficulty finding work. He came to the Royal Commission with hope.
‘I would like to be listened to and I would like the police to review my case. I am hoping that other victims of Brother Maxwell have also had the courage to come forward and give evidence about him during this Royal Commission.’
Eoin would like to see national legislation that covers child sexual abuse brought in with an independent body set up to investigate all cases. He also thinks that a dedicated advertising campaign around the significance of child sexual abuse would raise awareness in the community and prevent the incidence of abuse.
Eoin is planning to pursue compensation for the abuse and for the major breach of trust committed against him and his family by the Catholic Church. He believes that the Catholic Church need to treat victims with respect and support.
‘I would like my parents to be reimbursed for the school fees that they worked so hard for to send me to the Christian Brothers.’