A warning from his older brother to stay ‘the bloody hell away’ from their parish priest, Father Jerome, may have helped save Grant from experiencing the same degree of sexual abuse his two brothers and two cousins suffered.
‘When I was 12 I went to a movie night at Father Jerome’s house, it would have been [the 1980s]. Nothing happened to me, but one of the other boys disappeared with the priest for quite a while. When [my brother] Corey found out I’d gone there, he was furious, basically gave me the heads up that I shouldn’t go near him, and that probably protected me in the end.’
But it was impossible for the Year 7 student to avoid the priest entirely. Grant and his two older brothers were altar boys at their local Catholic church, and while changing into their robes, Grant recalled, Father Jerome ‘groped’ his penis.
‘I just stared at him, angry sort of thing, and he stepped back. I think Corey tried to tell our mum about Father Jerome grabbing at boys’ genitals and stuff, but he told her it happened to someone else, so she thought it was made up.’
Grant told the Commissioner that, while in their 20s, his two older brothers were living together and ‘losing themselves’ to drugs and alcohol. Grant said that Corey ‘never wanted it to be known that he was abused. I asked him on numerous occasions, and he said, “Nah, it never happened to me”. I asked him directly more than once. He was always a bit of a wild child, always pushing against authority. It would have explained his treatment of people at times, and his general attitude towards life’.
In the 2000s, at the age of 33, Grant’s brother Corey suicided.
‘He was a great bloke to hang around with, but busted on the inside, simple as that … I’ve only heard after his death that he had told a former girlfriend and his wife about the abuse. His kids were five and six when he died. None of us has explained any of this to them, why he died. It’s something that’s going to have to come out later on.’
Grant is married with a family of his own, and now also cares for his brother’s widow and young children. He said the sexual abuse has had a ‘profound impact’ on his family.
‘Two of my cousins were abused by Father Jerome as well, and they’ve tried to suicide, so has my other brother. He’s tried a few times. The stuff with Father Jerome was probably happening to him for three years. He’s only had two relationships in his life, and they were minor ones. He’s off the drugs, but he’s still trying to find himself.’
Through his own research Grant discovered Father Jerome had been accused of abusing children before being transferred to his rural Western Australian community.
‘From what I understand, they found out he was abusing kids in one area, and the Catholic Church has taken him to penance or whatever they do, then sent him to my town, then shipped him off to an island when things started to happen here. I feel the bishop at the time had an idea something was going on, I think he helped hide it. He was very involved with Brother Jerome and the parish.’
Grant believes shame and embarrassment prevented his brothers and cousins from ever reporting the abuse to police, but said one of his brothers successfully pursued a claim for compensation from the Catholic Church, after reporting his abuse through its Towards Healing program.
As for his own abuse, Grant has ‘written off’ that section of his life, describing his own childhood as ‘great’.
‘I’m here to be a witness for my brothers and cousins, because they won’t come forward. If I don’t do it, no one else is going to. I hate the whole institution of the Church, Corey hated it with a passion. The whole thing not being treated as a criminal offence, has destroyed hundreds of lives I’d say. Look at my family and how it’s affected us, it goes on and on. I want the Church to be made legally and morally responsible, they should be treated as a criminal organisation. Protecting paedophiles is the worst of the worst.’