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Geordie's story

Geordie was a ‘pretty happy kid’. Born in country Victoria in the early 1960s, he had a small farm to run around in, and ‘heaps of pets’. However, when he was in Grade 6, to save him travelling two hours each way to school, he was sent to a Marist Brothers boarding school in the Gippsland region.

Being a boarder was hard for Geordie. From having lots of space between him and his neighbours, he was suddenly living cheek by jowl with other boys in a dormitory. Over the first few weeks, he managed to make friends and settle down. ‘Then basically Brother Thomas started taking me to run his bath and stuff, and I went downhill’, he said.

Geordie spent more than 40 years trying to forget about the ‘little routine’ one of the boarding masters went through most Friday nights. ‘He’d start off making me run the bath for him. And then I’d have to jump into the bath to make sure it was the right temperature. And then he’d strip off and fiddle with the tap, and rub his penis in your face. And then he’d get you out, and dry you off and start playing with you. He never actually penetrated or anything.’

Brother Thomas was probably about 30 at the time. ‘He was smooth-talking,’ Geordie said. ‘He wasn’t nasty, but he did what he did. He comforted you actually.’ When one of the other boys said something, Geordie denied it. ‘I didn’t want to talk about it,’ he said.

Geordie was also sexually abused on one occasion by a sports teacher whose name he could not recall. The male teacher fondled him, made him touch his groin, and told Geordie that he’d ‘get kicked out’ if he ever told his parents. ‘And he saw my eyes light up, as if, good,’ Geordie said. ‘I must have scared him. I never had to do sports after that.’

Geordie’s English teacher didn’t sexually abuse him, but he picked on him, screamed at him, and yelled in his ear. He also caned him every day, only once, to keep within the school’s prescribed limit. When Geordie explained to another teacher that the scabs on his hands were from the cane, he was called a liar. However, other kids backed him up, and the caning came to a stop.

Geordie ‘basically went nuts’ and rebelled. He refused to do English. He retaliated when another kid flushed his head down the toilet. He failed his subjects. He wet the bed and got picked on by the other boys. He became a loner and was ‘easy prey’.

It was ‘just too much’, he said. Before the year was out, he tried to commit suicide.

Geordie’s parents then pulled him out of boarding school. They left the area, and moved around looking for work and starting up small businesses with limited success. They also ‘nearly got divorced’. Geordie said, ‘the hardest thing in my life is … is the guilt. Like, I feel guilty. I know it’s not my fault, but it sort of ruined their lives’.

Geordie repeated Grade 6 at another school. He ‘didn’t do too bad’, and went on to get ‘top marks’ in his apprenticeship. He then had ‘endless jobs’ up and down the east coast, most of which lasted for about a year. The sector he worked in was hard hit by the global financial crisis, so he now works in a sector where he consciously avoids situations where he could be accused of paedophilia. ‘I’m very aware of it because like I know what it does to you. I couldn’t handle being accused of it,’ he said. While holding down a job continues to be a struggle for him, he believes that every boss he has ever had never wanted him to leave.

Being sexually abused as a child left Geordie with a rigid sense of right and wrong. He learned to manage this problem about 10 years ago, but not before it kicked him ‘in the backside’, and contributed to the demise of his marriage. He’d been ‘too judgemental’, he said, and not capable of having a relationship.

This in turn gave rise to anger and anxiety issues. However, he has seen psychiatrists about anger management, and with the support of a former neighbour has learned to recognise when he is getting angry or clenching up with tension.

‘I know when it’s coming on, and I know how to handle it, pretty much from my neighbour,’ he said. ‘Basically, the way I look at it is you need to know what’s normal … What’s normal, what to expect, and then deal with it as it goes. And he taught me that, and he taught me how to deal with it.’

Geordie disclosed his experiences of abuse when his mother, prompted by a radio program, asked him if this had happened to him at boarding school. He never reported the abuse to the police, and did not join a class action against the school which resulted in a settlement about five years ago. He did not want to pursue the matter while his sick father was alive. Nor did he want to add to his struggles and repeat the experience of a friend who was ‘destroyed’ by a lengthy legal process.

These days, despite an inability to hang on to money, Geordie has some income from a couple of small properties. He lives in a friendly place, and is involved in the daily lives of his family members. If he gets angry, it’s usually when he hears about a priest being ‘moved on’ rather than defrocked, or when he remembers Cardinal George Pell’s evidence to the Royal Commission.

‘They really have no idea at all what’s it’s about, and what it’s done to people. It’s all round the world and they still have no idea. I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe.’

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