Glen grew up in a small Tasmanian town where the boys used to hang out at the presbytery with the parish priest, Father Livingston. Glen said that he and his best friend, Craig, would look at the older boys and think, ‘This is what you do’.
So in the early 1970s when he was about 12, Glen made his first visit to the presbytery. He said there were always lots of boys there, most of them older than him. He really wanted to fit in with the crowd so he played along with their games, even though he was uncomfortable with what they were doing.
He described how the boys would strip naked and wrestle. They also played sports in the backyard naked, wandered around the house naked, and watched TV naked. All of this was overseen by Livingston.
The priest didn’t touch the boys, Glen said, but ‘he was never too far away. Just watching’. Under the priest’s gaze, the older boys initiated the activities. ‘At some time’, Glen said, ‘they had been groomed to do this’.
Glen was fearful of these boys, and with good reason. On one occasion they forcibly stripped him naked and threw him onto the mats to wrestle with the others. Then, on Glen’s final visit to the presbytery they did something worse.
They attacked him, stripped him naked and tied him to a chair. Then they covered him in his clothes and several blankets, and set him close to a heater in the lounge room. The TV was blaring and Livingston was sitting in an armchair in front of it. Glen started to sweat. He wondered if he was going to pass out. ‘Father Livingston must have noticed how hot I was getting’, he said. ‘He stood up and removed the blankets and sat back down.’
At the time Glen was too naive to understand what happened next, but in hindsight he now knows that Livingston masturbated while watching him. At some point Glen passed out. He woke up with the priest standing over him. Livingston untied him and sent him on his way.
‘I just went home and tried to forget about what had happened. That was the last time I remember going to Father Livingston’s. What has always concerned me over the years is I was used like a sexual toy and I do not know whether I was physically touched by Father Livingston with any clarity, or how long I might have passed out.’
From then on, Glen buried his memory of the abuse deep inside and rarely spoke about it with anyone. But he still felt its presence in his life. The worst thing, he said, was the way it affected his ability to be intimate with his wife.
‘I’ve struggled with her in a physical way for a long time. It’s probably not a nice thing for a person to say this, but it’s taken me years to work out what’s right and what’s not right in relation to all this. And I spent a lot of time sitting there going, “Is that right? Do you do this?”’
Glen knew he had a problem but he was still reluctant to talk about the abuse. Then in the early 1990s he attended a family christening at which Livingston happened to be the serving priest. This was the first time in years that Glen had seen his abuser, and the experience prompted him to take action.
He rang up the Catholic Education Office and told them about the abuse. The nun who took his call listened attentively, hung up the phone and never called him back. At that point Glen gave up. He speculates that he probably would have let the matter rest there if not for a bizarre phone call that he received 10 years later.
Out of the blue someone rang him up and offered to give him support if he wanted to speak to the Royal Commission. Glen politely declined and hung up quickly. He didn’t know who the person was or how they knew such intimate details about him. Over the next few days he gradually realised that the call had left him deeply unsettled. ‘I thought, struth, I want to speak to someone so I better do something about it. So I contacted the Catholic Education Department, thinking they might be able to put me in touch with somebody.’
They did put him touch with somebody, and that somebody promised to put him in touch with Towards Healing, and after that he never heard from her again. So Glen took charge of the matter himself and made his appointment to speak with the Royal Commission.
He had a few reasons for wanting to tell his story. For starters he wanted to make sure the story got out there, and that the bad things that happened in this little Tasmanian town were not overlooked. He also wanted to stand up for those, like his mate Craig, who haven’t come forward to speak for themselves. Finally, he did it for his own peace of mind.
‘It’s probably about time I did. You can only carry your baggage for so long. It’s getting a bit heavy.’