Frank was a ward of the state when he was placed as an 11-year-old in a Christian Brother’s home in Perth. He said he was sexually abused by Brother Hoffman within his first week of arrival, and the abuse continued for the next two and a half years.
Frank told the Commissioner that he’d witnessed Christian Brothers meting out punishment when he’d been resident at another home. Two boys had found a one pound note and handed it to a Brother, who accused them of stealing.
‘They kept saying they hadn’t stolen it, that they’d found it. We all had to go to the school hall and watch as the Brother belted them. He started out with the strap all over their bodies, then he was slapping and punching them in the face, and when they fell on the ground, he kept kicking them.
'From then on, all I had was fear.’
Frank woke one night to find Brother Hoffman stroking his leg under the bed covers. When Frank told him to stop, Hoffman replied, ‘Don’t worry, it’s all a dream’. That became Hoffman’s refrain as the abuse occurred, sometimes two or three times per day. ‘He’d call you up to his desk with your work, then he’d hold you with one hand while he molested you with the other. You don’t want to believe it’s happening. I froze, mentally and physically.’
At the end of the school year in the early 1970s, when Frank was 14, he was told that he was no longer a ward of the state. ‘It was the happiest day of my life. From that moment on, I wasn’t going back to school.’ Frank reconnected with his family and gained an apprenticeship, successfully holding down a series of trade jobs over the following decades.
He was sorry that he’d never married and had children, but felt that the abuse had interfered with his ability to be in intimate settings. In the early 1990s, he felt the ‘wheels were starting to fall off’ in his life, but didn’t seek help from a counsellor till the late 2000s. He’d developed behavioural tics and found the counselling helpful as he developed strategies to manage the intrusive thoughts and behaviours associated with his anger and anxiety.
Frank applied for compensation through Western Australia’s redress scheme and was awarded $28,000. He also applied to the Catholic Church’s Professional Standards Office for compensation and received $50,000. He felt uneasy that all levels of the assessment and mediation process were undertaken by representatives of the Catholic Church.
‘I thought they could have had someone independent to give a sense of balance. The whole network belonged to them. They said I could have another 10 sessions of counselling, and I thought, “That’s big of you”.’
Frank felt he’d followed up all the avenues of restitution open to him – however, he still felt unsettled. ‘When you’re young, you live for the moment, but the older you get, I don’t know what it is, but it can get very dark. I wear a mouthguard so I don’t grind my teeth away. I try to find things that feed my soul, like music, and I think what got me through is that I was born on the sunny side of the street. You get a lot of jokers in the pack, but hopefully you pick up a couple of aces as well.’