Jack still bears the physical burden of the sexual abuse he endured more than 60 years ago.
He can clearly recall his first day of school as a four-year-old in the late 1940s. With an absent father and his mother in hospital, he’d been sent to live with a Catholic aunt in Perth, although his parents were not Catholics.
‘I was sent to a Catholic school. I was seated separately from the others and was so nervous that I wet myself, so the nun, a Sister of Mercy, hit me hard across the back of my head with a crucifix, then called the priest.’
Jack was led to a room in the convent next door. ‘The priest undressed me, washed me down and sexually played with me, then returned me to the classroom.’
When his mother was released from hospital, he returned to the family home and was enrolled in a different Catholic school where he was again seated separately from his fellow students. ‘I was often belted with a leather strap or hit with the crucifix, and I remember that always made me cry.’
Within a week the priest from the first school appeared, and the abuse escalated.
‘The priest would give me cakes to eat while he undressed then molested me while reading passages from a red book. He’d have me repeat, “pretty boys are for God’s pleasure”, and insert a finger into my anus or masturbate himself while feeling my penis. The nuns started referring to me as “pretty boy”, so I think they were colluding with the priest.’
A school excursion culminated in what would become a recurring nightmare for Jack, whose sleep is still punctuated by the traumas of his childhood.
‘The nuns gave me to a priest I didn’t know, and he took me off in his car.
‘He stopped near a river and removed my pants, then mouthed my penis and raped me but I think he was disturbed by someone so he drove me back to the school.’
The rape Jack endured that day at the age of five led to a lifetime of internal physical trauma. ‘The muscle between my bowel and anus was damaged to such an extent that up until a major operation … it would protrude through the anus opening and require me to push it back into my body.’
On the evening of the rape, Jack’s mother discovered blood on his underpants and around his anus at bath time, and beat him until he explained why. Jack was moved to a state school and the abuse was never discussed again.
Jack has a strained relationship with his only child. ‘I’ve avoided forming close relationships with males, and that’s had a far-reaching effect on my ability to connect with my son and my two little grandboys. I’ve always over-achieved because I felt if I didn’t do well then I’d be a failure. My son recently wrote an email to his mother telling her that he respects me for what I’ve achieved, but said there is no love, which I believe is my fault.’
Jack has received a letter of apology from the Sisters of Mercy, and is hopeful of repairing his relationship with his son.