‘We lived in a nest of paedophiles’, Hector said in a written statement. He was referring to a notorious group of offenders who operated in his local parish when he was a small boy. Hector now knows of dozens of men who fell victim to these abusers. He was himself abused by a teacher at the Catholic primary school he attended in Ballarat in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The teacher’s name was Brother Lennox. He came across as a fun and lively man, and his arrival was like ‘a breath of fresh air’ in contrast to the other serious, authoritarian Brothers. But he was also calculated. Looking back, Hector believes that Brother Lennox started grooming the children from day one.
Specifically, he created a cubby house at the back of the classroom and filled it with foam mats, supposedly so that the boys could wrestle without getting hurt. Soon he joined in the wrestling. This gave him a discreet way of touching the boys, which led to more serious abuse.
Hector was abused three times by Lennox, twice at school and once while on an excursion. The abuse consisted of fondling. Hector counts himself lucky that it didn’t progress to anything worse. Similarly, he’s grateful that he was never attacked by any of the other paedophiles who were preying on his friends and classmates at the time. If they had gotten to him, he said, ‘I’d just be screwed up for life. I understand why people take their own lives’.
Hector said that it was ‘impossible to make sense’ of the abuse during his childhood and so he blocked it out. When he was young he experienced some effects, such as a general distrust of men, but the most painful impacts didn’t arise until he had his own children.
‘The memories would come back when I would be bathing them or drying them after a bath. It made me so angry that what should have been beautiful, cherished moments with my children were polluted by the actions of a deviant.’
A few years ago Hector participated in the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations. The process took its toll.
‘I just had this day when I thought, “This is what depression feels like”. I just couldn’t think of anything that would make me feel better on this day, and I thought, “I’ve got to do something about it”.’
He ended up finding a great counsellor. ‘She was the first person I’d ever described the abuse in detail to … It’s probably the only proactive thing I’ve done in relation to the abuse and it’s been fantastic. Once I talked to her, I stopped having the conversations in my head.’
Around this time Hector got a call from police asking if he’d like to make a statement against Lennox. Hector was unnerved by the phone call because the fact that the police knew his story suggested that someone at the Victorian inquiry had passed on his confidential details. But he put his concerns aside and agreed to make the statement.
Since then the police investigation has stalled and Hector has been disappointed with the little progress that’s been made. But his disappointment with the police process is nothing compared with the disappointment and outrage he feels in response to the way the Catholic Church has dealt with survivors of child sexual abuse.
‘They weren’t any different to a company who’s just out to shut these people up and defeat them any way they can. Use their money, use their resources, use their power to get what they want … It’s like they’ve done a moral compartmentalisation of their being. They’ve put all the teachings of Christ into a box and said, “Okay, we’ll just put that aside for a minute and we’ll just talk to the lawyers like a company, a corporation”.’