Finn grew up in Queensland and was raised by his mother. She wanted him to have a good education, so she sent him to a private school run by the Anglican Church.
When Finn was in Year 7, there were some issues at home and he was encouraged by his teachers to see the school counsellor Frank Owen for ‘companionship’, and just basically for ‘emotional support while going through everything’.
Finn told the Commissioner that Owen abused him for a period of two years. ‘That was in the form of all these sessions in his room where he used hypnosis and … you never knew exactly what he did … It’s because like, you were walking okay, but next thing walking out very confused, and Owen is not making sense … your pants, your shorts, not done up’.
Finn ‘clearly remembers fondling. I clearly remember him with his head between my legs. That was the confronting part’.
Finn said that the hardest part was having to keep his mother’s ‘spirits high’, and therefore not being able ‘to speak about it and question … I was always encouraged to see him and every time I did see Owen, things didn’t seem right. And to keep everyone happy, I continued to see him’.
When the headmaster asked how the counselling sessions were going, Finn expressed his ‘confusion with some of the sessions. The headmaster just brushed it off and said … I must already have my pants undone when I went in there’.
Both Owen and the headmaster visited Finn’s mother regularly to ‘reassure her that I was doing extremely well’.
Later, when it emerged that Owen had been accused of sexually abusing a boy, Finn’s mother questioned him. ‘She could sense that something wasn’t right, and next thing, she pushed and pushed the issue … I still to this day regret ever telling my mother. It was the worst thing I ever did.’
‘After … I came clean to my mother, you would think it happened to [her] more than it happened to me … It one hundred per cent changed everything about her. So I guess … the only way I got to get over it was to just try and block it out, because even though it happened to me, I was still being reminded of it on a daily basis by my mother.’
His mother’s reaction had a profound effect on Finn’s ability to deal with this issue. ‘I just wish that [my mother] was able to, I guess, to a certain degree, let it go if possible, but at the same time, I wanted to have a life. I wanted to succeed in life. I didn’t want this to just cripple me the way it did her’.
Finn is aware that other victims of child sex abuse have sometimes ‘retreated to alcohol and drugs’. However, he said that he ‘didn’t have the luxury to fall apart’ because ‘I was basically the primary caregiver for my mother. So I guess, in a sense it kept me on the straight and narrow. However, the emotional abuse that I received from my mother because of … telling her everything, impacted me more than Owen’s crimes ever did. He did literally send my mother nuts'.
Finn and his mother spoke with Church officials about the abuse, one of whom ‘showed no sympathy whatsoever other than saying it was terrible what had happened and [offering] me part-time work … because it would look good on my resume to show that I’d worked for the Church … That’s the best they can do’.
The subsequent mediation process was ‘intimidating … because these guys, they’re not ready to listen to my statement … virtually calling me a liar on every front … had me sign every non-disclosure statement under the sun to show that this never happened and let’s sweep this under the rug again’.
Finn received a large compensation payment after the mediation. However, ‘the emotional impact it took on me during the whole, I guess, legal case and the way the school conducted themselves … the way the Anglican Church conducted themselves … was by far now, the most appalling thing I’ve ever seen’. However, Finn can now say that ‘what happened to me at the hands of Owen, happened. I’ve moved on from that’.
‘What I’ve taken away from the Royal Commission is that you never really get over it. You can bury it. You can put it in the back of your mind, but you only have to read the news, watch the news, and there’s something about abuse somewhere at all times. So … as a victim, you’ll never ever get that full complete closure.’