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Evan Lee's story

In his first year of high school in the mid-1970s, Evan was taught by Father Callahan at a Catholic boys’ college in Melbourne. The priest had a thick leather strap and ‘was pretty bad at giving us what they call the cuts’, Evan said. Callahan was also the football coach and it was his practice to supervise boys’ showers after games. Evan was sexually abused several times by Callahan and recalled trying to avoid the priest to prevent it happening again.

‘He was standing in the showers and most of the other guys had finished their showers and gone out and he approached me and went to grab me you know, which scared the heck out of me. I managed to – I don’t know my body must have been slippery from the soap – I managed to just get out the shower door and I got a pair of shorts off one of my friends. I was naked at the time …

‘I asked my mother to get me out of that school when I went home, and I never went to another sports day after that. I used to knock off. We used to have sports every Friday. I used to go home at lunchtime to avoid doing sports again.’

Callahan was also once chased out of the family home by Evan’s brother.

‘My brother and I were home from school because we had really bad flu’, Evan said. ‘Mum and Dad were at work and he just, this Father Callahan just walked into the house – no knock at the door or anything; just walked into the house and went to walk into my bedroom and started yelling and screaming at me, and my brother came out of his room with a cricket bat or something and chased him out of the house with a cricket bat. And I just remember I literally feared for my life at the time. I didn’t know what this guy, this priest, was doing in the house.’

Evan had never reported his abuse to Victoria Police or to the school. ‘I think the Church has tried to cover up a lot of these types of things. I think they’ve tried to shift priests around, cover things up way too much.’

As a teenager, Evan experienced another attempted sexual assault on him at a railway station and the effect of this and Callahan’s made him extremely vigilant. In his adult years, he’d experienced periods of depression and at one stage was ‘staring down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun, which was pretty scary’.

At one point he tried to find Father Callahan. ‘I walked into a church one day with a shotgun. I was going to try and sort him out, you know.’

He didn’t find the priest, but when Evan was in his late 40s, a man grabbed him ‘on the old fella’ and in the fight that ensued, Evan killed the other man.

He spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he was serving a lengthy prison term. At his sentencing hearing, the sexual abuse he’d experienced as a child was brought up and there was a suggestion that he be charged with manslaughter, but the jury found him guilty of murder.

While in jail, Evan had started counselling, something he hadn’t really done before. ‘I’ve gotten that support whilst I’ve been in jail this time. There’s a psychiatrist and a psychologist that I see now. It’s pretty good here … the medical staff here aren’t too bad.’

He was completing courses and had occasional visits from family members. ‘My sons and stepsons keep me going. They’re doing well.’

He said he sometimes thought about the abuse by Callahan and felt ‘a bit emotional’.

‘But I’ve sort of gotten to the stage where I can talk about it. It’s taken a long time.’

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