Father Gregory Ormond was parish priest at the Catholic church that shared grounds with Harley’s primary school, in regional Victoria.
It was the early 1980s, and Ormond fashioned himself as a ‘progressive priest’, letting kids sit on the altar during Mass. He’d hold ‘fish and chip’ nights with the altar boys, asking some of them individually into his room. ‘With the benefit of hindsight, I know what happened in there.’
When Harley was nine years old, Ormond took him to the church presbytery one day, and made him kneel down. He told Harley he had sinned, put his hands down the front of Harley’s pant, and masturbated him.
Then he took Harley’s trousers down and raped him. Ormond said that if Harley ever told anyone what had happened, God would punish his family.
Harley knew there had been talk about the priest amongst boys in the playground. ‘The word was around. Don’t get caught alone with Ormond.’ That he had heard this, and yet was still trapped by Ormond, added to the shame and embarrassment he felt about the abuse.
‘I allowed myself, stupidly, to get caught alone. So I was angry at myself that it happened, because I ignored that.’ He lost confidence in himself, experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation throughout his life.
He gambled heavily, and this ultimately cost him his marriage and access to his children. He went ‘into a tailspin, nothing mattered anymore’, and spent time in a psychiatric ward.
Arrested and charged with a number of criminal offences, Harley was held on remand. Watching the television news in his cell, he saw a segment about the Royal Commission’s work, including footage of Ormond.
‘Without the Royal Commission being in place, and that trigger being there, maybe I wouldn’t have ever said anything.’ Suddenly, 30 years after the abuse, Harley couldn’t keep quiet anymore.
‘I just spat it out. That was the first time I’d ever told anyone anything. I was exposed then. And it was pretty frightening.’
The other inmate with him ‘was compassionate ... I don’t think he understood, and I don’t think he would even try to understand. But he knew that there was something there. And so he didn’t judge me’.
The next week, ‘I got a pencil and some paper, and so I started writing. And the officers kept on looking at me like I was strange, because I kept on needing my pencil sharpened. Because I was just writing out what had happened and what was in my head. Eventually they gave me a pen’.
He kept his writing in his cell, not knowing what to do with this material. He met a Catholic chaplain, who asked if he wanted to talk about something. He gave her the notes he had written. She helped him, but they kept losing contact when he got moved around.
‘But eventually she found me, and sort of encouraged me to do something.’ He initiated contact with the Royal Commission, and also typed his statement up and sent it to a friend, a solicitor.
Harley ‘never intended to tell my parents, because of their age’, but his friend suggested to them ‘there was a chance that something might have happened’. His mother asked him about it when he was out of prison, and he disclosed to her.
‘I didn’t lie to her. I said, “Yep”, but she’s that far into the Church, she just sort of doesn’t want to know. And that’s fine, because in my mind it actually reassures me that had I said something when I was nine, it mightn’t have got any further.
‘So the attitude of the time was that the priests were God and they couldn’t be touched ... That’s why it was allowed to continue for so long.’
Harley has not reported the abuse to police. Ormond was a prolific sexual offender against children, and is currently incarcerated. ‘He’ll never get released. So what’s the point? It’s not going to make me feel any better ... It’s not going to make him feel any worse.’
Harley is horrified that the Church had known about Ormond’s offending for many years before he was abused, but did nothing to prevent it. ‘It makes me sick, it physically makes me sick.’ He cannot understand why the clergy who covered up Ormond’s abusing have not been jailed too.
He has not been to Church for many years. ‘I have nothing but contempt for the whole lot because I think it’s founded on bullshit, and it’s probably one of the most contemptible organisations ever. I don’t know what I believe in.’
Harley has engaged legal representation to take action against the Church. He recommended that the Church be held financially accountable for the trauma of survivors of child sexual abuse within the Church and meet the costs of them accessing therapy and support.
Harley now sees a psychologist every few weeks. He wants to manage his life better for his kids’ sake, and his own.
‘I’ve hidden and pretended everything’s been alright for such a long time, but now I don’t have a lot of control over it. And it doesn’t take much to trigger. And I don’t know how long that will go on for. I try to move forward, to get past this, just keep moving forward and see what happens.’