Frank's story

Frank was born into a large family in the late 1930s. When he was five years old he and his family moved to Queensland for his father’s work. Shortly after relocating, Frank’s parents separated and he and his siblings were made wards of the state.

When he was six Frank and his siblings were sent to a Catholic orphanage, and all placed in different dormitories. The orphanage was a ‘dreary place’ and he felt lonely. The environment was strict and the nuns followed a ‘strict curriculum and schedule’. Catholicism was ‘forced’ upon the residents and attending mass and learning Latin was compulsory.

By the time he was eight years old Frank had become an altar boy for Father Neil McAlpin, serving for two years. McAlpin would let Frank have some of his food after mass had concluded, and he recalls feeling relieved because the orphanage food was ‘frugal’. After a while, Frank learnt that ‘such a burden came with certain requirements’.

‘One morning he told me to leave my surplice and my red church slippers on. He complimented me on my responses to the mass and then told me to lift my surplice up high on my body and take down my shorts. He came towards me and helped me undo my belt and then undid his trousers, showed me his erect penis. I didn’t know what to do.’

Frank was comforted before McAlpin fondled his genitals. The priest turned Frank around and masturbated himself, resulting in ‘fluid flowing down’ Frank’s backside.

Frank was told not to say anything otherwise ‘bad things’ would happen to him. He was asked if he liked being an altar boy and was too frightened to say no, so continued to serve McAlpin.

The abuse occurred at least once a week over two years, and quickly escalated from fondling to rape. Frank recalls having bleeding ‘from time to time’ but he never told anyone what was happening.

On one occasion when Frank was being raped by McAlpin, an older boy named Justin walked in on them. Justin then confronted Frank on what happened, and he told Justin that McAlpin made him his ‘pet’ and ‘did those things’ because he ‘couldn’t help himself’. Justin was ‘disgusted’ and said that Frank should tell someone what was happening. Frank went to the mother superior, Sister Edwards, and disclosed the abuse.

‘She was distraught. She screamed that I should go and wash my mouth out with kerosene soap. [She said], “You must not say things about the representative of Almighty God at this orphanage”. Then she told me to leave her presence.’

Frank was then sent to confession with McAlpin. He couldn’t lie in front of the Church and therefore did not ‘confess’ that he had been lying. After that, Sister Edwards announced to the whole school that Frank was ‘not fit to serve the mass as an altar boy’. He was then ‘sent to Coventry’ and no one would talk to him. The abuse ceased after that and he no longer had ‘anything to do’ with McAlpin.

When he was 10 years old Frank and another boy, Kevin, ran away from the orphanage for at least one week before being both caught by police and returned. Back at the home the boys were publically horsewhipped as punishment. Frank recalls receiving seven lashes on his back.

For the next four years at the orphanage Frank suffered regular beatings by the nuns. Sister Gregory was the most ‘savage disciplinarian’ of the home and inflicted harsh punishments. She had a thick, leather belt with rosary beads and metal parts attached and ‘used it often’ on him and the other children.

Frank left the orphanage at 14 and was sent to work at the railways. He was promoted several times and worked hard, and this job was a ‘positive’ thing in his life.

Throughout his late teens and adulthood, Frank has lived with ‘undying shame’. He has a ‘nagging fear’ that someone would find out about McAlpin and expose the abuse. Frank suffers from anxiety and depression, but ‘hides it well’. His three serious relationships have all broken down.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Frank spoke of his experiences. He went to the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions but could not disclose the entire details of his abuse. Frank feared that he could be ‘in the papers’ and that would affect his job at the time. He received $10,000 and now intends to seek further compensation. He never reported the abuse to the police.

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