When Jeff was 10 years old his dad passed away after a long period of illness. Father Graham, one of the Catholic priests who said mass at the funeral, took an interest in Jeff’s family and began to pay regular visits to their home in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.
One summer’s night in the 1970s, Father Graham entered Jeff’s bedroom under the pretext of offering him counselling. There he touched Jeff’s leg and fondled his genitals. Later that year, Jeff was called out of class and sent to a nearby church where Father Graham committed a similar act of abuse.
Jeff told the Commission that these are the only two incidents he can remember but he suspects there were more. Jeff suffers from memory loss and is often troubled by what he calls ‘rape dreams’.
Driven by a ‘ferocious desire to escape from everything’ Jeff studied hard in high school, achieving excellent marks and a place at a top university. But his relationships and emotional life were falling apart.
Jeff told the Commissioner, ‘When he got me I went into a permanent state of semi-psychosis. I played football like I didn’t want to live anymore. I won trophies but I was crazy. And people liked me but then I’d just go over the edge and insult them’.
He drank heavily, got into fights and failed his third year of university due to lack of attendance. Though he worked hard, Jeff’s distrust of authority made it difficult for him to hold down a job and he experienced periods of homelessness and trouble with the police.
In the early 90s Jeff’s daughter was born, but his girlfriend left with the child after a few years and Jeff fell into a ‘deep depression’. At age 27 he attempted suicide and was placed into psychiatric care.
Some months later Jeff talked to a psychiatrist about the abuse he had suffered. It was the first time he had mentioned it to anyone.
‘I fought against it. I would never admit that I got done, because it wasn’t the manly thing to do. You just man up and you keep going every day.’
Apart from the psychiatrist, Jeff didn’t mention the abuse to anyone else. But after he was discharged he discovered that the psychiatrist had talked it over with his mother. Jeff denied it when she asked. He told the Commissioner he was worried about the pain it would cause her.
Jeff lived with his mother until his depression proved too much for her and she kicked him out of the home. He spent the next few years in low rent accommodation, drank heavily, struggled to maintain a decent income and attempted suicide twice.
In the early 2010s Jeff’s mother passed away. Soon afterwards Jeff opened up to his brother, Craig, and discovered that he already knew about the abuse. Jeff’s mother had taken Craig aside years before and asked him to look after Jeff and help him to confront the truth of what had happened.
Craig took his obligations seriously and helped Jeff to lodge a formal complaint with the Catholic Church. After a seven-month process Jeff was awarded $40,000.
Jeff now works for himself and makes a steady income. He is supported by his brothers and sisters, attends counselling and hasn’t had a drink in five years.
Jeff still bears strong feelings of anger and resentment towards the Catholic Church and believes the sum they offered him was ‘a joke’. He is adamant the Church should be paying better compensation to more victims.
‘All these victims are suffering, many of them are on the street. It’s cash money that makes a difference to a person’s life when they’re fighting demons that were given to them by a person that was trusted in their childhood. Everyone says, “we’re going to make it better by talking about it”. It can make it better but you’ve still got to pay the rent.’