‘Apart from one or two individuals, maybe three, my time in the Catholic system wasn’t too bad.’
Gabriel was the youngest child in a Catholic family that lived in regional New South Wales. His mother passed away when he was six years old and his father was working hard to provide. Gabriel attended a Marist Brothers Catholic school when he was in Grade 4 and stayed there until graduation. He described himself as a ‘naive boy’.
In the late 1950s Gabriel came into contact with Brother Mayfield, a ‘ruthless and quite vicious’ teacher, who was his teacher for three years. Mayfield appointed a ‘whipping boy’ in class and, whenever the class mucked up, Mayfield would flog the chosen student. Gabriel said it was distressing to see one of his classmates being physically abused so intensely.
Gabriel and his friends would often visit the local swimming pool after school and on weekends. Here the boys would play a game that involved throwing a rock into the pool and racing to retrieve it.
On one occasion when he was in his early teens, Gabriel rode his bicycle to the pool alone. He said he made friends with another boy and they started to play the game. They didn’t have a rock, but used a piece of cloth instead.
Gabriel then saw Brother Mayfield, who suggested they play ‘piggy in the middle’. Mayfield grabbed the piece of cloth and put it inside his trunks, leaving a bit hanging over the edge, and asked Gabriel to retrieve it.
‘I grabbed it and put it the same as he had, a little bit hanging out of the top. He put his hands inside my swimmers, ignored the piece of cloth, and put his hand around my genitals … He made sure that he felt everything and pulled the cloth out and threw it back. When it came back, he put it in his swimmers. I sort of hesitated and he grabbed my hand and pushed it down, and around and made sure I felt everything that was there including his full erection … This went on for about 20 minutes.’
The other boy then left, and Gabriel used the opportunity to do the same. He was surprised to find that Mayfield followed him into the change rooms. Mayfield grabbed his towel and dried Gabriel, making sure he touched his penis. Mayfield said, ‘make sure you don’t tell anyone about this’ and left the change room. Gabriel was never sexually abused by Mayfield again.
‘I lived in fear and would never be alone with a teacher. I didn’t trust anyone after that.’
After the abuse, Gabriel struggled to concentrate at school. He couldn’t tell anyone about Mayfield because he didn’t think anyone would believe him. Gabriel was confused because he had been taught in religion class that it was ‘wrong to touch anyone’ unless you were married, yet the Brother had touched him. He said if there had been teachers he could have trusted at school, he would have disclosed the abuse.
‘I just didn’t know what to do. It makes you question everything about yourself.’
When Gabriel was 15, Mayfield was removed from the school. He believes that a parent complained about him. He also believes that the principal knew that sexual abuse was happening regularly. Gabriel left school in the late 60s.
For over 50 years, he told nobody about the abuse and was ‘haunted’ about what could have happened to him. In the late 90s, Gabriel learnt that a fellow student took his own life because he was abused by Mayfield.
In the early 2010s Gabriel confided in his best friend and, soon after, his wife. He then made a report to police and submitted a victim impact statement. Shortly after, Mayfield was arrested for child sexual abuse and later sentenced to over 15 years in prison. Gabriel is currently involved in a civil claim against the Marist Brothers.