In the early 1960s, when Herm was in his first year of high school, he and his siblings were living with their mother in western New South Wales.
Herm was an altar boy at the local church, which was run by an Anglican brotherhood. ‘I used to go to church on Tuesdays and Fridays, before school. And I’d go across to the rectory with Brother Olgan, who was the priest there, or the rector there. And he would prepare breakfast for me.
‘There was another Brother there, Brother Frank Ketty, who never came to breakfast or church with us. He used to teach scripture at the school. I think on the first occasion that I met Brother Ketty in the rectory, he picked me up and carried me into the bedroom and just tickled me ... and Brother Olgan walked past the bedroom then and said, “You bastard”. And he said to Brother Olgan words to the effect “Oh, go away, you old fool”. And that was all that was said.’
After that, Ketty would wait for Olgan to leave the rectory so Herm was alone.
‘The first time it happened, he just grabbed me and took me into this bedroom … He raped me anally nearly straight away ... He said, “You do realise that I can send you to the boys’ home” … That’s how he kept me quiet. He terrified me with that.
‘He knew that I never had a father ‘cause he said, “You’re no good. Your father left you, you’re a bad kid”. It was quite … quite terrible.
‘After he had finished with me he’d just throw me a towel and say, “Go and clean yourself up and get to school”.
‘The police station was only two doors away from the rectory. And I can remember him grabbing my arm one day ‘cause I said, “I don’t want you to hurt me anymore”. I said, “Brother, please don’t hurt me anymore” … and I remember him dragging me by the arm saying, “Well, I’ll take you to the police station now and they can send you off” ... I said, “Okay, okay, I’ll be good, I’ll do what you want me to do”.‘
On other occasions in his car, Ketty would force Herm to perform oral sex. ‘I don’t know how many times … I’m guessing probably six or seven times ... He would drive off onto a side road and pull up and … he also raped me as well.
‘It seemed like a long time. But probably looking back it coulda went on for about six months. I’m not too sure ... To a little boy being raped a couple of times a week over a two-month period it could seem like two years.’
The sexual abuse stopped when Ketty was transferred to another parish. ‘I thought, “Oh God, it’s all over”. But he did come back a couple of times … and he raped me a couple of times after he’d left the town. But he then, after that period of time, he never came back.’
Herm doesn’t know if Ketty abused other boys at the church. ‘I never spoke about it to anybody. I was quite terrified during those young years. Terrified by Brother Frank’s threats.’
Herm left school in his mid-teens. ‘My reports weren’t very good, they went downhill very fast … I was never the same ... I look back now and think, “Oh my God, what I coulda done”.
‘I didn’t stay in jobs very long. Changed jobs a lot … I used to put on quite a brave face. I’m a bit of a joker and I know why I am now.’
Herm disclosed the sexual abuse for the first time in his late 50s, to his brother. ‘He knew that there was something wrong. I’ve had terrible problems all my life … I haven’t had a real good life … I wasn’t able to maintain relationships. I buggered them up all the time. I’ve had problems trusting people …
‘I’ve had psychological breakdowns. I get quite emotional all the time. Over the years I’ve been admitted to mental health facilities.’
In the late 2000s Herm tried to have a counselling session with a male psychiatrist, but found he wasn’t able to talk about the abuse to a man. He said he’d had female doctors all his life, and believes he’s always been afraid of men in authority.
In the last few years, as he heard more and more about the Royal Commission, Herm realised he had to come forward about Frank Ketty.
‘I see his face every day …
‘What makes me feel really bad is I never said a thing, 30, 40 years ago … what this man must have done to so many kids.’
Herm has also been in contact with the free legal service, knowmore, but when he spoke with the Commissioner he’d been waiting some time to hear back from them.
‘I’d love the Church to be held accountable. I’d love to be able to at least get a “sorry” from them. I’m not sure whether it’d help me but I think that they need to tell me …
‘I hope that these people can be brought out to the public, to see how bad it was.’