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Eric Thomas's story

‘I have spent my entire life affected by these bastards and would freely go into detail of the facts of my abuse with the Commission.’

Eric and his siblings ‘brought ourselves up’, as both parents worked long hours and would be drunk every night. ‘In saying that, I had a loving family. But I never had a great deal of support around me all the time.’

The family was Catholic, and Eric attended a De La Salle junior college in western Sydney during the 1960s.

He was quite good at sport in his early teens, and after a long distance run one day a visiting Brother offered to massage him. The Brother rubbed Eric’s legs, near his groin, and Eric became aroused. ‘I was quite embarrassed by it ... Didn’t know what was happening.’

Not being able to ‘control’ his reaction later impacted on his adult sexual life, leading to problems including premature ejaculation. To avoid the risk of further embarrassment Eric gave up running. ‘Never in my life have I talked about that incident until recently.’

Eric was also subjected to ‘molestation’ by another Brother. He made an attempt to disclose this to his father at the time, saying that this Brother ‘won’t leave me alone’ – but ‘I don’t think he quite understood’.

‘Child abuse and sexual abuse wasn’t a subject back then you know ... It wasn’t in my vocabulary, what was going on. To me, back then, I just wanted to be left alone ... If I was fully engaged, and asked specific questions as a kid back then, I would have been pointing out what was going on. But my initial conversation, or how I could express it was, “I just wanted to be left alone”.’

His father advised him to ‘tell your teacher’, and Eric spoke to another of the Brothers. When he did so he was labelled a ‘whinger’ and ‘then abuse from him went on from there’.

After this abuse Eric’s grades dropped and he began truanting from school. He found it difficult to trust, felt full of guilt and shame and ‘so mixed up’, becoming ‘a shut-down, withdrawn kid’.

‘I survived it, but the repercussions of all this, my ability to trust and form relationships, lasting relationships, and my ability in intimacy throughout my life – that was taken from me ... When I sit with my therapist today and I get asked specific questions on how I feel, the impact still sits strongly with me, my depression and anxiety throughout life.’

After leaving school in his mid-teens Eric went into a trade, but this didn’t last long, and he then became a very heavy drinker and drug user for many years. As part of his recovery from substance addiction Eric disclosed the sexual abuse to his sponsor. ‘I have lived the last 30 years of my life in recovery and countless amounts of counselling to free me from this burden.’

Eric was triggered by hearing media reports about child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church, and this made him decide to share his experiences with the Royal Commission. ‘I don’t like what I have been feeling lately as a result of watching the media storm, the feelings and memories are resurfacing.’

He is currently engaged with a legal firm about his options, and feels positively about this. ‘There’s got to be accountability. People need to listen. For me, I wish I could have found a voice when I was a kid and people had of heard me, but they didn’t. That’s how it was ... I am a worthwhile person you know, I just want to be heard.’

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