Jake Brendan's story

Jake attended a Marist Brothers college in eastern Australia in the early 1980s. He started there in Year 5, and went right through to Year 12.

During primary school, Jake was ‘just fairly average in a lot of ways. My best friend and I were sort of constantly being told to stay separate from each other, but I didn’t find study difficult. I quite enjoyed a lot of the work we did’.

It was when he began high school that Jake first encountered Brother Malcolm. He was a house tutor, and ran the photography and film clubs.

‘I had a particular interest in photography, and that was offered as an extracurricular activity … he was quite scary as a teacher … He would always be playing on that idea of, you’re either in the shit or “You’re one of my favourites”, and he constantly had other students vying for those positions of favouritism.’

During film club, Malcolm’s favourite students would have access to snacks and soft drinks, but Jake ‘wasn’t particularly interested … in the free chips or what have you, but I was scared of him. I’d been disciplined by him and the other Brothers, sort of constantly disciplined, but yeah, I was fearful of him’.

Jake thinks Malcolm ‘would sound people out … he would come up and just put his hands on your shoulders and stuff and start massaging you and I guess judging by … how you reacted to that, whether you were a potential target, and I’m pretty sure that he’d done that to me at some stage during class, and I don’t know, I can’t remember how I would have reacted.

‘That’s how it sort of continued in the darkroom … that same contact, the shoulders and giving you sort of some massage or what have you, and then his hands would basically start wandering … and I guess, he’d just then proceed to unbuttoning your trousers and start playing with you … I know I wasn’t the only one’.

No one ever spoke about the abuse.

‘I feel ashamed that I should have been aware. I know of a friend of mine that went through the same thing. We haven’t spoken in detail about our experiences, and I just think at some point … that I was aware, but I just didn’t know … I think on some levels, just because of who he was and what he did, you could tell you weren’t the only one.’

The sexual abuse continued for over 18 months. When it occurred in the darkroom, there would often be other boys present, but because it was pitch dark, no one could see what was going on.

When Jake was helping around the school during one school holidays, the Brother came into the shed where he was working and tried to undress him.

Jake ‘picked up the closest thing I could find … I stopped him sexually abusing me through that action, but then I was picked on in many different ways by him … like he basically put a black mark against my name for the rest of my schooling’.

For example, although Jake was very good at physics during his junior years, he wasn’t allowed to take any science subjects for Years 11 and 12, and was forced to take subjects that he didn’t enjoy.

When he was younger, Jake’s mother had a bad accident, after which she adopted Catholicism. ‘As part of that she saw the Brothers as being almost holier than thou ... We had a fairly volatile relationship … and when I broached the subject with her, she thought I was throwing mud and kicked me out of home.’ Jake was 14 when he first tried to tell his mother about the sexual abuse.

‘I was kicked out of home a few times when I was growing up, so it wasn’t anything new and I guess I almost would have expected that to be the response anyway.’

Although he tried his hardest at school, and ‘I’m not by any stretch of the imagination slow or unintelligent … but at that stage, I found it really difficult within an institution to get anywhere, to actually succeed in anything.’

In the early 2000s, Jake was approached by a lawyer who was heading a civil action against the school, and he eventually received a substantial settlement.

Jake found the whole process very difficult. ‘I was shocked … I thought that there would be some sincere apologies and some sort of sincerity or authenticity to the Church’s response, but it was very cold and clinical, and they fought tooth and nail for every cent of compensation.

‘I wish I’d never gone down that path … because my health has deteriorated since then. I didn’t realise how vulnerable I was and how I wasn’t able to deal with it coming back into my life … Yes, honestly, I wish it had never come back into my life’.

Jake has had difficulty finding a counsellor who he can relate to, but really wants to ‘seek serious counselling’ after telling his story to the Royal Commission.

Some time ago, when a young relative was enrolled in a Marist Brothers school, Jake went on school camps as a volunteer for several years, ‘to make sure that the culture had changed’. He believes that it has.


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