Fraser’s parents separated in the mid 1960s and his mother decided to put him in state care. He was 11, and shocked to be sent from leafy suburban Perth to a regional farm school far away. ‘The food had maggots in it, and the bread had weevils.’
Although he wrote many letters to his mother begging to come back home, these were never sent by the Christian Brothers who ran the school. One of the staff, Brother George, sexually abused Fraser, as did some of the other residents, including older ‘farm boys’ who worked there.
After two years Fraser was moved to a Christian Brothers boys’ home, where he experienced further sexual and physical abuse.
‘I was sexually abused by over a dozen people over two institutions. And it wasn’t just the Brothers, it was the farm boys; it was too many occasions to mention.
‘But you know it’s worse when a Brother does it to you, because you’re getting abused during the day and then you’ve got to go to mass that evening. How can they espouse the Ten Commandments and living the Christian life when at the same time they’re trying to abuse you every other occasion?’
As a result of his experiences at the home, his education suffered and he experienced many problems in his later years, including depression, alcoholism, low self-esteem, and anxiety, as well as issues with trust and intimacy. ‘I think it affects your confidence in a way.’
For many years Fraser was angry at his mother for placing him in care and did not speak to her, but they are now in contact. ‘One has to forgive. If you don’t forgive you’ll always suffer so, you know, it’s a good thing to forgive people. And she had a tough life herself.’
He has never engaged with counselling, but found attending a Buddhist centre helpful. ‘I find as you get older, it has more of an effect. As you get older, you reflect more on your life and what’s happened.’
Fraser believes child sexual abuse will continue to be a problem for society, as new generations emerge and do not heed what their forebears learned. ‘I think human nature just stays the same. We don’t really improve; we might invent a lot of new things and new electronic gadgets, but basically human nature’s flawed ... It’s just a struggle all the time.’
In the mid 2000s, Fraser reported Brother George to police. He also told his wife (who was supportive, having herself been sexually abused as a child), after seeing media about abuse in Christian Brothers institutions.
‘The only reason I did that was when it first hit the press that the Christian Brothers denied that there was any abuse in their institutions, that’s when I thought it was time ... I don’t think they should get away with suggesting that none of those things happened. So that’s when I reported it.’
The Brother was charged and went to trial. ‘I could have appeared in court but I didn’t really want to see Brother George ... Actually he never got jailed or anything anyway, he only just got a community services order, I think.’ More recently, Brother George has been charged with sex offences against another boy at the school.
Fraser knows there are further victims that may not have come forward, because one approached him after reading about his case.
‘If everyone reported it, you’d have a case, you’d have a bit of an ongoing history of these gentlemen being abusers. If everyone doesn’t say anything then you might only end up with one person who lodges a complaint.
‘But then if there’s a string of them, and there’s a history there, the next time they get charged then maybe the judge would see that a custodial sentence was required, other than just getting a few hours of community service.’
Fraser applied for compensation through the Towards Healing process, and received more than $20, 000. ‘I don’t think it was enough payment for what you went through. It was a token payment.’
Despite the abuse and the hard time Fraser experienced in the care of the Christian Brothers, he is careful not to blame the whole order for what happened to him.
‘At the end of the day, while there were Brothers that sexually abused children and these things happened, there were also Brothers that were very good. Unfortunately, in these cases the Brothers that were very good get tarnished by the Brothers that weren’t.’