Gregor has been seeing a psychiatrist and following her advice. She suggested he speak to the Royal Commission, and that he record his memories of childhood. ‘She said if you really want to start helping yourself, start writing things down.’ As a result, Gregor came to the Royal Commission with a statement that described in detail his experience of being sexually abused in the mid 1960s. He was about 10 when this occurred. He was molested by a trainee priest posted temporarily at the Christian Brothers school he went to, in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
The assault occurred at a local swimming pool Gregor used to visit with his cousins. They were better swimmers than he and would sometimes go off without him.
On this particular afternoon, Gregor was dogpaddling a little out of his depth and got into difficulty. ‘I was panicked and admit to feeling great relief when from out of nowhere a pair of arms appeared underneath me at my stomach and chest, sort of like a fork lift’, he recalled in his statement. It was the trainee priest, Father Henry, who took the opportunity of holding Gregor in the water to slip his hands into Gregor’s swimming costume and fondle his penis.
‘I was shocked and did not know what to do or say. I can't recall being warned of stranger danger at school but I knew this didn't seem right. I told him that I needed to go and he said he would take me to the side of the pool which he did, but when we got there he said to me that I need to keep that our secret because I had sinned and would get into trouble. He then told me he could show me something that would help me. I was so scared and confused that I just said okay.’
Henry led Gregor to the changing rooms where he told Gregor again that he had sinned. ‘With that he took my togs down and started oral sex on me. I did get an erection (I'm pretty sure that was my first). Father Henry pulled his bathers down and encouraged me to penetrate his anus. I was petrified and just did what he said … He then changed position and wanted to perform anal sex on me. I was really scared, I had no idea what was happening to me and I could not call out to my cousins. I felt tears falling across my cheeks.’
The assault ended when other people came into the changing room. Henry’s parting words to Gregor were a threat:
‘He told me I can never ever tell anyone because my sins remained and further sins I had just committed, if I tell anyone I would go to hell and be with the evil devil forever.’
When Gregor got home his cousins were already there. He was quizzed by his parents about why he was late. He made something up but it was obvious he was lying and his parents were angry.
‘I felt alone and lonely. I made it through that night but I never made it through that night if that makes sense, this shame has followed me everywhere since and it can never ever be undone.
‘Effectively I had the innocence of childhood sucked out of me, and the domino effect is staggering. Sure after time I managed to bury the incident in my subconscious however the repercussions manifest in differing ways and over the years it becomes more evident that personal patterns and traits are attributable and consequential to that incident.’
Gregor had been a happy, healthy child. ‘I ate well, slept well and had fun … My first recollections of life I would say were pretty good’, he told the Commissioner. But the assault affected his capacity to learn. He couldn’t concentrate. ‘My mind wasn’t there. It was just all over the place’, he said. From a young age he’d had ambitions, but these dropped away. He left school early, and took up an apprenticeship. He has been successful in his working life since then, though is unable to work now due to an accident.
Gregor told no one about the abuse until about 40 years later, in the mid-2000s. ‘The very first person I ever spoke to about this was a psychologist, and I was there in relation to my marriage breaking down … She asked a question and it must have been the right question, and it just came out … It was almost like vomiting up information. It was that sort of eruption.’
The troubles in Gregor’s marriage had been caused by his infidelity. ‘I couldn’t say I loved her … I couldn’t say I would never do it again. That was the issue.’ The psychologist helped him understand his abuse was a key factor in his behaviour. ‘All my life I had been trying to prove to others that I wasn’t homosexual.’
The marriage couldn’t be fixed, but Gregor remains on good terms with his wife and is close to their children. He has had counselling on and off over the years, in a cycle he described as popping the abuse back into the subconscious – ‘It went back in behind closed doors’ – until that didn’t work anymore: ‘The secret key was turned and out it came again.’
He hasn’t reported Henry to police or to the Church. ‘There’s still that belief system that’s been put in place ... And even now, even now I feel, maybe it was my fault. Maybe I did something wrong.’
Despite his experiences, Gregor doesn’t reject the Catholic Church and his children attended Catholic schools. He appreciates some of what he learned there, such as respect for others. As well: ‘They tend to push you to do things you can’t do, or that you perceive you can’t do … You push yourself’, he said.
He believes kids are less at risk now than when he was young. ‘I think there are more safety nets for young children … Children these days are probably not scared to go and talk to an authority person about what’s just happened.’ And there is less fire and brimstone in the teachings of the Church - ‘I believe that kids won’t have such fear’.