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Harold Emerson's story

‘I’ve held all this back for so long and I didn’t even tell my … foster parents … and I’ve only just told ‘em this year and you wouldn’t want to hear the response that come from Mum. [She] said, “If I knew this happened years ago I woulda got a shot gun and shot ‘em all”. That’s how she feels about the whole thing.’

Harold was removed from his alcoholic parents when he was two, and placed in care in Western Australia in the early 1950s. He spent three years in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy, before being fostered by the couple he still calls Mum and Dad.

From the age of seven to 13 he lived in a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers, before being sent to a second Christian Brothers home, where he lived until he was 18. Harold was sexually abused in all three homes.

Harold told the Commissioner that ‘there’s not many good memories’ about the first home.

‘It’s mainly bad memories of what they done. Penetration and everything like that. It’s been on my mind all this time, and I thought, “Nuh. I just gotta bring it out in the open now”.’

At the Christian Brothers homes, Harold recalled being sexually abused by at least six of the Brothers. At the second home, ‘The Brother that was molesting me all the time, touching me at night-time and I was half awake and half asleep … I knocked him out with me hand, and who got the worst for that? I did’.

Harold doesn’t like talking about the abuse, ‘because it’ll bring tears to my eyes. I know they’re all dead … [and] sorry to say this. I keep saying it. I hope they all rot in hell. That’s how I feel about it …

‘There was one Brother that had a lot of time for me … He was out of this world … [The] others were proper … I won’t swear … They were just … and the part I don’t understand is, Christian … Christian Brothers are supposed to set the good example …’

The Brother who was kind to Harold took him aside one day and said, ‘“I’d like to do something for you, but my hands are tied. I can’t say nothing”. And he had tears in his eyes … He knew’.

Harold believes that he was too distressed to talk about the abuse before last year. ‘It was just too much trauma for me. I just couldn’t talk … When it first started, it was too overwhelming for me and … they were just brutal, just brutal.’

Harold doesn’t believe that the memories of his childhood abuse will ever go away. ‘The damage has been done … See that scar there … I got a 12-gallon drum chucked at me head … The emotional scars are inside, but a lot of us kids, we’ve gone through the mill and we’re talking about … top violence …

‘I’m here today to try and put a stop to all this because I’ve had enough. I just can’t take anymore. There’s times I’ve felt like I wanted to do something … I’ve been having counselling … That’s been going on for about 12 months.’

Although he came from a family in which there were a lot of alcoholics, Harold was never a heavy drinker, and he gave up drinking alcohol completely a few years ago.

‘A lot of these kids have done it and I feel sorry for them. I really cry about it. One thing I didn’t do was [turn] to drink. Didn’t take these stupid drugs kids are taking today now …’

One of the Brothers who abused Harold was charged for sex offences against a number of boys, but Harold couldn’t face him in the courtroom, so he didn’t participate in the court case.

The Brother was let off because the judge said he was too old and sick to go to jail. ‘But he wasn’t too sick to touch us boys when we were trying to sleep … watching us in the showers and everything.’

Harold has a number of health issues and had had over 30 attendances at hospital for anxiety in the past year. He is currently taking medication to try and lessen the impact of the nightmares which began when he saw an article in the newspaper about child sexual abuse.

‘I was going to commit suicide about a month ago and I talked about it and thought about it, took myself to hospital and then one of the psych nurses spoke to me … and that all went out the door. And I haven’t thought about it since.’

Harold told the Commissioner, ‘I’m here not just for myself. I’m here for every child, adult, anything like that … to stop all these stinking paedophiles … They should all be put away in a cell that they can’t get out of. They should just be left there.’

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