Henry was abused over 70 years ago, but still remembers his experiences vividly. After his father was sent away to fight in the war his mother ‘had a hell of a time trying to cope’ and sent him to live in a Catholic institution when he was 10 years old.
Henry was only there a short while before he was abused by one of the Marist Brothers.
‘We used to have to line up along the verandah and go into the bathroom one at a time, and he’d lock the door. I wouldn’t have been there very long, and I’d had some other Brothers who’d given me a bath and it was alright, but when this one did, it wasn’t alright. And I more or less screamed out and swung around and punched him … because he was trying to sodomise me, well he was sodomising me.’
The Brother then stopped what he was doing and started threatening Henry. ‘He said, “You’re going to get a belting”. And he said, “If you say anything to anybody you’ll really get a belting”. And of course I was frightened to say anything.’
Later that night Henry woke to the sound of another boy sobbing. He asked him what the matter was.
‘He said, “I can’t go to sleep, that Brother Saunders he done this to me”. I said, “Yeah, he done it to me too”. He said, “I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to stay here”. I said, “No, well I don’t want to either. Let’s go”.’
The two boys snuck out of the dormitory and hid underneath the verandah. The night was so cold they made a fire out of an old mattress. It quickly burned out of control and set the verandah alight.
‘It started burning and we thought, “Oh, what are we going to do? We’re going to get a belting”. Anyway we put the fire out and we thought we’d better scoot.’
They ran into the bush and spent the night in a cave behind a nearby waterfall. In the morning they wandered through the scrub for a while before the police picked them up.
Henry was expelled from the school and sent home. He spent the next few years living with various relatives until he was old enough to work. At 19 he met his wife, who is still with him today, more than 60 years later.
For most of his life, Henry never mentioned the abuse to anyone. Then about five or six years ago he talked it over with his sister and cousin, and found them both supportive. He later discussed it with his wife and the psychologist that he’s now seeing regularly.
Even though the abuse happened so long ago, Henry is still dealing with the effects every day. He said it made him homophobic and prone to volatile reactions when he hears stories of violence against children and women.
‘I get very upset when I hear about sexual abuse or a woman being raped or even being hit or a child being molested. I get very upset and I feel as though – I could never hurt anybody, but I feel as though I’d like to cut his throat. No way I could do it. I’m just not that type.’