Euan always remembered the beatings he copped as a child, but it was not until a few years ago that he suddenly remembered the sexual abuse. The memory of it arrived, literally, on his doorstep.
‘It came one day in a brown paper envelope, just bang, boom, at my front door. Just a knock on the door and nobody there, just the bag. And I opened it. And I opened the file and the first page I happened to open was a confession of the guy that raped me.’
The file had come to Euan after he requested it under the Freedom of Information Act. He was planning to use it in a case against the Christian Brothers for the physical abuse they’d inflicted on him as a child, but this new revelation tossed all his plans out the window. Instead of reading the file he locked it in a cupboard.
‘I hadn’t read it. But my wife had read it. [She said] “You were raped and you’ve got to accept it”. I couldn’t. I couldn’t accept it. I don’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.’
Eventually, with his wife’s support, Euan found the strength to pull the file from the cupboard. As soon as his eyes hit the page, the memories came creeping back.
It began in Western Australia in the 1950s. Euan, a young teenager, was living in a Catholic-run boys’ home where he was brutalised by the Brothers. One Brother regularly attacked him with a whip, another one struck him in the head with a piece of four-by-two.
‘There was no sexual things involved … just pure, vicious maltreatment. Cruelty.’
After enduring the abuse for many months, Euan ran away from the home and stayed with his parents for a while before he was sent off to a government-run reformatory for boys. He arrived just after his 14th birthday and was quickly put to work, doing farm labour.
One day he and another boy were sent out in a buggy to collect wood. The boy’s name was Roger and he was about 17 or 18 years old and much bigger than Euan.
‘Roger was in charge. I just sat in the back of the buggy. And he took us a lot further than what we’d normally go. And it got to one part and the next thing I knew I had the rope around my neck and he’d pulled me right off the horse and cart and he was choking me, and he punched me a few times.’
Roger drew the rope so tightly it made Euan feel dizzy. He loosened it a little when he got to the ‘sex part’, and when he was done with that he tortured Euan, tying a cord to his genitals and pulling at it. Then he went back to the choking, hoisting Euan up by the rope.
‘I pretended to faint. I was hoping something would happen. And eventually he let me down. He thought I had totally blacked out. And as soon as I felt that he wasn’t there I got up, grabbed my trousers and ran like bloody hell.’
Back at the home, Euan ran into one of the staff who then took him to see the nurse. Sometime later the assistant superintendent came to interview him about what had happened. Euan gave the whole story and even wrote it down in a statement. Roger wrote a statement too, confessing to the rape.
The assistant superintendent and the superintendent ignored both statements and declared that the whole thing was a figment of Euan’s imagination.
‘I was made to feel that I had done something wrong. I was the deviant. I had the deformed character defect, or whatever it is. There’s something wrong with me … The only good thing – I would say it’s a good thing – that’s come out of the whole bloody thing is: I hate liars. You turn round and lie to me straight to my face and I find out, you needn’t talk to me again. And I think it’s because I was told I was a liar.’
Sometime after the assault, Euan left the home for good and started work. He’s had a long and varied career since then, talking his way into all sorts of trades despite his lack of qualifications. He always worked hard. He drank hard too, trying to block out the bad memories. It worked, but at a cost.
‘That spoiled my life, and I think it spoiled it for my kids as well to an extent. Obviously it spoiled me so therefore it had to have spoiled my kids’ life because if I had been a different person, the person I should have been, my kids would have benefitted from that.’
After all that he and his family have been through, Euan is angry at the Catholic Church and the Western Australian government and wants them to apologise for what they’ve done. He spoke to a lawyer about taking legal action but the man kept insisting they delay the case and push for more money.
‘I said, “I’m not interested in the bloody money. I want me – that’s me – fixed”. I’m not right. I know I’m not right. But I’m a hundred percent better than what I was.’