‘I was only asking for help when he took advantage of me and stole my soul in a brutal act’, Ivo said of Brother Francis, whose sexual assault has plagued his life.
The middle child in a large family with a ‘stringent Catholic upbringing’, Ivo served as an altar boy and had a priest and a nun among his close relatives.
Brother Francis, Ivo’s class master, was ‘a short little guy’ who ran the class on ‘fear’. He had an ‘eyes front’ focus on schooling and used frequent corporal punishment with cuts of the strap at a Christian Brothers high school in Victoria in the 1970s.
In documents he brought to the Royal Commission, Ivo detailed how Francis digitally raped him. The cologne worn by the clergyman remains a strong trigger for memories, he said.
‘Most vivid for me was running outside to play footy and the back door slamming after I told my mother what had happened to me that day in the classroom.’
Ivo believed he had said enough in ‘a diplomatic process’ to let her know what had happened without saying ‘he stuck his hand up my bum’. Simultaneously he was ‘trying to avoid punishment’ for criticising a Brother. The memory of the slamming back door, Ivo said, ‘was more about the glee that it was over, that I was out of the house and back sort of playing’.
Ivo believed his mother had heard him ‘because soon after I was travelling to a new school by train’. That same year, ‘a teacher [at the new school] approached me from behind, only to find me holding him off with a broom’.
At the new school Ivo ‘really didn’t care … I used to wag half the time ... there was always a lot of poofter bashing … we were kids and running rife … teenagers … causing havoc’.
After more than 25 years, ‘the persistence of friends … these troubles and no care for authority’, led Ivo to report the abuse by Francis to police in the 1990s. But when a Google search showed the Brother was in jail, ‘I was verbally told that there wasn’t much that they could do’.
That was the last Ivo heard from the police until another former pupil tracked him down for help with ‘coincidence’ evidence against Francis a decade later.
Meanwhile, in the mid-2000s and fully supported by his parents, Ivo went through it all again when he wrote a letter to the Church. However, he was devastated to learn, when he showed the letter to his parents first – ‘my anger still raging and the alcohol taking hold’ – that his change of school was for ‘academic reasons’ rather than the abuse he thought his religious mother had believed.
Ivo’s letter was sent to Towards Healing, which was ‘more about the Church being seen to be doing something but [it] had minimal healing for me’.
The ‘Church used coercion to get me to sign a deed of release’ for $30,000. With a different law firm, Ivo later settled for $80,000 when Francis was linked to another region that was mentioned in the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.
‘The last thing I was fighting for was money. Survival meant a lot of changes in me, and most would be barriers. A loss of emotional management, my sexual identity lost, commitment issues, emotionally absent from relationships and parenting, the knowledge that I have been a victim and a perpetrator; I live with this every day.’
Ivo’s schooling was disrupted, he was removed from his peer group and got into heavy drinking, fighting and illegal activities while working in construction.
He now has a new compensation figure in mind, to cover ongoing medical and counselling needs and other support. ‘Let’s start with what has been rumoured to have been spent by the Catholic Church defending this perpetrator and creep: $400,000 plus.’
He recited a list of resentments he wanted addressed which included advancement along the surgical waiting list – currently at three years – for ‘medical problems with my backside’ that he has suffered ‘for some years’.
‘I still want my $400 [grand]. I want to be released from my deed, released again, and I want the 400 grand that they were prepared to pay … for his legal … costs and put me back where I could be with a job.’
Now on a disability pension, Ivo does not entirely blame the Church for his inability to work, but the Church did ‘screw with my head’, he said.
Legal costs of survivors should also be paid by the Church, he said, because ‘theoretically, I’ve paid $16,000 in legal fees to a consortium that seems to run the world’.
He would like his parents compensated for ‘the wasted school fees’ and wants to know if the Christian Brothers order ‘knew of Francis’s habits’ and whether he was associated in time – as well as place – with another notorious paedophile priest.
Ivo’s partner of a decade, Faye, said she always had to beg for a hug from Ivo. Now after attending a meeting of survivors which included ‘about 10 guys [who] all said the same thing’, she understood the lack of trust and showing of emotion in intimate relationships.
Ivo questioned how the level of compensation covers that, and the tension with his parents, particularly his mother who he was ‘ready to kill’ a few years back.
‘I’m only asking them for $400,000 but I should be really asking for $4 million for 40 years of my life.’