Jared, who’s now in his mid-30s, looks back in disbelief at the injustice of what happened to him in his mid-teens. It started when he was bitten by an insect on a bush camp run by his Marist Brothers high school. Jared was given an antihistamine which made him drowsy. That night he was moved to where the teachers slept so they could keep an eye on him.
Jared woke during the night to find the school principal Brother Peter Morton performing oral sex on him. Jared went into shock. He didn’t know what to do. He thought maybe he’d had a nightmare.
He went home the next day in a state of deep distress and told his very devout parents what had happened. A meeting was arranged between the Brothers and his parents. Morton admitted at the meeting to fondling Jared but nothing more.
He admitted it again during another meeting with the bishop. Jared’s parents were reassured that Jared would get counselling and that Morton would be removed. The Brothers said it was now up to Jared to take the next step.
‘I was only 15, why was it left up to me? The bishop knew about it, the leader of the Marist Brothers Order of Australia knew about it … Catholic Education knew about it. Everybody who was supposed to be … out to protect me wiped their hands of it ... Why was it left up to me or my parents, when we had absolutely no idea of what to do or how to do it?’
Jared’s father said Morton had to go. One Brother tried to persuade him otherwise but his father stood firm.
Morton was stood down as principal but stayed on at the school until the end of term. Jared ran the risk of seeing him every day. Six weeks later Morton was given ‘a hero’s send-off’. ‘Stress’ was his official reason for leaving. Another account was that he had an ulcer that needed treating. Jared, sitting in an office upstairs, had to listen to ringing endorsements about Brother Morton.
The school did arrange counselling for Jared with its counsellor, another Marist Brother. The sessions were held during class hours. Jared started ‘copping a fair bit of grief’ from the other kids. Why wasn’t he in class? What was going on?
But Jared’s home room teacher, who also taught him two subjects, was not at all curious. ‘Not once did Mr Miller ask me, either in the morning at home room period or in the afternoon at home room period, “Where the hell have you been? Why are you not in my … class?” Not once was I asked.’
Jared missed classes for two years. His high marks dropped. ‘After the incident, everything went to fail or just pass.’
He didn’t end up in the career he was hoping for.
Several years later, ‘an absolute mess, suicidal’, he went to see a lawyer called David who was a family friend.
‘This is how I said it to David: “I have a mate that's in a bit of trouble and needs some help with some stuff. Can you help him out?”’
David realised that Jared was talking about himself, not a mate. He helped him make a statement to police and it was through that process that Morton finally admitted to performing oral sex on Jared.
The case went to court. Various teachers from the school were there to support Morton, who pleaded guilty. In the end, he received a suspended sentence. Jared was devastated. He later saw the Brothers having drinks across the road to celebrate.
‘How does one person walk out of jail? How do people, offenders, sexual predators, sexual offenders on kids, how do they walk away from court, walk out of the courthouse with a suspended sentence? How the hell can they walk free after taking the innocence of a child, turning that child into an absolute wreck, mental wreck … That's my question to the judicial system … how the hell can that happen?’
Jared has still not received any compensation from the Marist Brothers, just some counselling through Centacare. He tried to go through Towards Healing but was asked to retell his story and prove again that the abuse had happened. It was too traumatising.
Brother Morton was provided with extensive treatment and counselling by the Marist Order, including a sex offender treatment program. The Marists also re-employed him as a lay person on his return from overseas.
‘I've got nothing out of this except for mental and physical anguish … Everything is not good, in my book, really, when it comes to what he's gotten and how he's gotten it. But I don't know how that can happen … The perpetrator gets supported better than what the victim does.’
Jared recommended immediate reporting to the police.
‘As soon as someone comes forward and says, “Hey, this is what has happened,” that person should be stood down … That’s where it should be reported straightaway, bang … to the police … it shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.’