When Ethan was around nine years old he started refusing to go to school, but didn’t tell anyone at home why. ‘I just wouldn’t say anything, just say “I’m not going, I’m not going”.’
He didn’t know how to say that Mr Briggs, a teacher at his Catholic school, had raped him multiple times. This abuse happened in the classroom at the end of the day, and in the school showers after swimming.
‘I was scared you know, I was scared. And I thought this was a part of going to a Christian or a Catholic school, it was just what happened. So I just thought it was normal ... You get older and you realise it’s not normal.’
The abuse continued for a year and a half, and during this time Ethan disclosed what was happening to one person he thought he could trust.
‘There was a priest I went and told and then he molested me as well. So I just thought, well, this is not going to help if I tell anyone.’
After this, he didn’t speak about it again for a decade.
For a time Ethan was dependent on alcohol and drugs, and has had sexual difficulties and problems with relationships. He saw counsellors, through a government mental health plan, but this didn’t last long because they told him they weren’t qualified to deal with his issues.
At the moment Ethan is supported by another priest, Father Pete, who his mother arranged for him to meet. ‘He’s a great counsellor ... Not shoving my face in Christianity, which is a good thing.’
His ex-partner (‘my best friend’) and child help him get by too, as do his friends. ‘It’s pretty simple, yeah. Family and friends. My friends keep me going, you know, got some really good friends ... They’re good people. I don’t have any bad people in my life.’
In the 2000s Ethan went through a Towards Healing process with the Church. ‘I got a lawyer to represent me, I can’t remember which one it was, but ... I didn’t actually have a lawyer present while I was being interviewed by the Church’s investigators.’ He has ‘bad memories’ of this interview.
Ethan received a moderate amount of compensation, and was required to sign a deed of release.
‘They said that they found my complaint [about Briggs] highly unlikely ...They didn’t actually give me the payout for sexual abuse, they gave me the payout for all the bullying that I went through. So I didn’t feel that I was believed.’
While Ethan recognises ‘the money helped’, he remains troubled by the lack of belief about the abuse. ‘If they had’ve believed me it would have felt different.’
Father Pete accompanied Ethan when he met with the Commissioner. The priest believes there was ‘something odd, to say the least, that a payment of that comparative magnitude’ was made only on the grounds of Ethan being bullied by other students – particularly when that was not the basis of his complaint. ‘What the heck is going on?’
This was something Ethan had contemplated at the time, too. ‘Why did I get the money?’
There was no other follow up from the Church after the settlement, and he isn’t sure that it would have helped if they had made further contact. ‘No, I don’t think it would’ve ... I don’t know, ‘cause it didn’t happen.’
At this stage he is not sure whether he wants to make a police report about Briggs. ‘I just want this to be over. I don’t know what to do ... I don’t want to get dragged through court or anything.’
Not long ago he saw his former teacher when he was out shopping with family. ‘I just felt like punching him as hard as I could. But he’s an old man you know, I couldn’t do that.’