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Erick Peter's story

‘Separate Church and education. I can’t think of anything better than that.’

Erick was born overseas in the mid 1970s. When he was five he and his family migrated to a small town in Queensland because at the time there were not enough job opportunities in his homeland. Erick’s parents were diligent hospital workers.

Erick described himself as a ‘smart student’. Despite standing out due to his accent, he had friends and enjoyed learning at the local state primary school he and his siblings attended. He said his teachers ‘pushed’ for children to attend private schools and so in the mid-1980s Erick’s parents decided to send him and his brothers to a De La Salle college.

Erick described the school as ‘very religious’. He said there was more work at his new school ‘than in the state system’, however he enjoyed lessons with his Grade 4 teacher, who was strict but fair. When he was nine, the school principal, Brother Simon, took the class, as the regular teacher was away.

‘We were doing an exercise sheet and I remember finishing it quite quickly and staring off into space. He called me up to the front and asked me to bring my sheet up. As he was going through it, he grabbed me by the hips and … moved me over. He was reading it and then unzipped my pants and put his hands down there … I can’t tell you how long it went on for.’

Simon fondled Erick’s genitals in front of the class while checking his worksheet. He doesn’t remember anything after the abuse occurred but he does recall being in the sick bay later that day. Simon was in the sick bay with him but was ‘very nice’ to him. The next day at school, his regular teacher returned and Erick had nothing more to do with Simon again. He never told anyone about the abuse.

Erick did well academically in primary school. In high school, however, he began to act up. He fell asleep in class, ‘wasn’t paying attention’ and never completed his homework. He started smoking marijuana heavily from the age of 14 and smoked at school a number of times. As a consequence, Erick was ‘politely asked to leave’ the college when he was 16.

After high school, Erick ‘focused on music and drugs’. He found a job in sales, which helped him control his drug habit. At the time he felt he didn’t have any motivation to achieve more in life.

When he was in his 20s he was involved in an accident and sustained a serious injury.

‘I felt like I was always destined to do nothing … After the accident, I realised that things couldn’t keep going on the way [they were]. It was a little nudge in the right direction.’

Erick then went to university as a mature age student. He had a stable relationship and everything was ‘going well’.

It was while he was in the middle of completing an assignment on corporal punishment when his memories of the abuse were triggered. Following this he became depressed and his relationship was affected.

He ended the relationship soon after and has not been in a relationship since, as he said he has intimacy issues and feels ‘much better being alone’.

He has found it difficult to remain in one job and has worked in a series of different fields. He has few friends and is currently living with his family, who have been ‘very supportive’.

In the mid-2000s Erick disclosed the details of the abuse. He first told his ex-partner before confiding in his family. He was hurt when his mother questioned the abuse, saying it might be in his ‘active imagination’. However, she has since been accepting and supportive.

In recent years, Erick has had some suicidal thoughts after losing his job. He had a mental breakdown in his 30s and is now unable to work. He described himself as ‘a mess’, and has counselling to help him work through his issues. He told the Commissioner that he only recently came to understand the abuse wasn’t his fault.

He never reported Brother Simon to the police. He hasn’t engaged in civil action against the De Le Salle Brothers but is interested in doing so. He’s aware that Simon has received a sentence, but ‘doesn’t want to know the full extent’ of his crime. He said Simon is ‘a pathetic person, hiding under the guise of religion’.

‘De La Salle must have known what was going on. I remember in school there was a joke about the principal … “Arses to wall, Simon’s on the crawl”. At the time you don’t think anything of it.’

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