I can’t sleep.
This happens every night.
I remember what happened to me, what was taken from me.
I felt angry and saddened
I can’t let go my pain, as it reminds me of the time
that I thought I mattered.
Before it happened.
Before my heart was broken.
From ‘The Night’ by Hayden (pseudonym)
In the early 1990s Hayden moved to a new Catholic school for the final two years of high school. He and his family were practising Catholics and Hayden was considering entering the clergy as he ‘wanted to do something that would help people’.
Sport was highly valued at the school but Hayden didn’t have the build for the under 18s. He felt like he wasn’t making a contribution until he was befriended by the principal, Brother Lucas. Later in life, Hayden realised he was groomed by the man.
He would go to Lucas’s place often, as part of a pastoral care program for the parish. ‘I considered him to be one of my best friends … probably one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life.’
Hayden was devastated when he found out Lucas was leaving the school. One weekend, before he left, Hayden was invited over to watch a movie. He ‘happily obliged’.
Lucas’s choice of movie, starring a voluptuous woman, was a disappointment to Hayden who wanted an action movie. But he went along with it. Lucas suggested they watch it on his bed, which Hayden was uncomfortable about.
While they were watching Lucas asked, ‘Do you want a tickle?’ Hayden thought it was a bit weird but, before he could answer, the Brother started to touch him, tickling him on his back and sides, then touching his chest and stomach. ‘I was in shock and I became speechless … I started to be paralysed with fear. I didn’t know how to react as I didn’t want to make him upset … The thing that guts me is that I can’t remember what happened after that …
‘I remember being deathly silent on the car ride home with Dad – unable to make eye contact with him and staring out the window and feeling traumatised. I remember crying … that night. I did not want to go to his house again.’
Hayden didn’t tell his parents, or anyone else, about the abuse because of the guilt and shame he felt. He found it difficult to concentrate and his schoolwork suffered. ‘I didn’t want to go to any socials. I didn’t even go to my school formal or schoolies. I became a recluse.’
Hayden didn’t attain the grades he needed for his preferred course at university so he joined the armed forces. It meant that he could leave the town and its memories. He suppressed and compartmentalised the feelings he had as a result of the abuse, and got on with his life. However, he stopped going to church and his loss of faith is something he feels deeply. ‘I’ve made some poor choices in life, as a result, because I haven’t had that spiritual guidance.’
Hayden first disclosed his abuse, years later, to a colleague who was aware Lucas been charged with sexual offences. When the Royal Commission was announced Hayden googled it and accidentally contacted a law firm, who took on his case.
Hayden was eventually awarded $130,000 from the Christian Brothers. This was a difficult process as the Church tried to claim that the post-traumatic stress disorder that he experienced in relation to his work, was the cause of his problems. The Church did not take responsibility for what happened and sent a written apology, which Hayden took as insincere. Hayden’s not interested in going to the police as he can’t remember all the details of the abuse.
Hayden is married with children.
‘The emotional consequences of the abuse, for me, it’s affected me for over 20 years. It’s affected my drive to seek intimacy with my partner. To this day I still recoil with disgust when I think about the abuse. There were triggers recently … I was putting my daughter to bed … and I asked her if she wanted a tickle … It struck me that they were the same words that that, ah, person said … And I started weeping at the thought and I couldn’t sleep that night.
‘I continued to feel betrayed at what happened and upset that it not only stole my innocence … but could steal the innocence of such phrases, which is subsequently affecting the relationship with my daughter … I’m only really now starting to desensitise that and separate the two, but it really sucked.’
‘I don’t believe in suicide … I couldn’t do it for my family … but mark my words, if there was a way to blink myself out of their memory and out of existence at the same time, I would. Because they don’t deserve that … It really sucks. It really, it really is hard …
‘I think the main driver for doing [the Royal Commission] though, is that … I can’t stand by and think … if something like this happened to my children … If I can do something that could potentially stop this behaviour from ensuing, I have a moral obligation to do that. That’s why, as embarrassing as it is, going through this process, and as distressing as it is, I felt I needed to do that.’