Jeremy suffered fits of extreme anger throughout much of his adult life. The fits sabotaged his career opportunities and put strain on his relationships. Finally, when he was in his late 40s, he decided he had to do something about them.
The turning point came one evening when he saw a TV news program about a priest who had sexually abused children. Afterwards, Jeremy threw himself into a rant about the Catholic Church. To his alarm, his teenage daughter, Rachel, joined in.
‘I’d be getting angrier and angrier and Rachel would be taking on that anger over the issue and I realised I had to stop before I changed her mind, spread the disease of hatred.’
Jeremy started speaking to his GP. Together they examined his past life, looking for the source of his anger. By this stage, however, Jeremy had built walls inside his mind to keep the truth at bay, so the real reason behind his anger lay bricked-up and buried, far out of sight. His feelings towards the Catholic Church were a hint that slipped him by. Instead of pursuing that line, he examined his childhood home life.
Jeremy was born into a large Catholic family in the mid-1960s and grew up in regional New South Wales. His family were poor and often didn’t have enough to eat, but there was no violence or abuse in the home. The anger, Jeremy quickly realised, must have come from elsewhere.
With time and thought came insight, and one day it clicked. ‘Each time I would get angry from that point further I was going back into the classroom. And it just kept coming back to me: the classroom, the classroom.’
In the 1970s, Jeremy attended a Marist Brothers high school in New South Wales. During his first year at the school he was molested by a teacher named Brother Grant. The first incident that Jeremy can remember occurred after he had dozed off in his home room.
‘As I assume with most young boys at that stage of life, I had developed an erection while I dozed off. As Brother Grant wandered up and down the aisle he noticed that I had nodded off and got me to stand up and go to the back of the classroom, which was only a few paces away.
‘I stood there facing the back wall as I was told. He approached me from behind and proceeded to tuck in my shirt. Making considerable effort at the front of my shorts, he was able to fully fondle my erection.’
There were two more similar incidents in the yard after that. The fourth and final incident occurred one day when Brother Grant followed Jeremy into the toilets. The Brother wrapped some toilet paper around his hand and masturbated Jeremy.
Thirty years later, Jeremy relived these memories and identified, at last, the source of his anger. He didn’t mention his discovery to the GP or to his wife or kids. Instead, he went to the police and told his story for the first time ever.
The officer listened to Jeremy’s story, promised to investigate and get back to him and gave him the number for a crisis counsellor. Jeremy went on to tell the crisis counsellor about the abuse, and also his wife, Anna. She has been his greatest support.
‘I’d hate to think what any poor bugger is going through that doesn’t have someone like Anna with them. There needs to be something for people to help them out straight away. I’m not talking about money ... Everyone needs an Anna. And they need that person 24 hours a day and easily accessible.’
The police eventually got back to Jeremy and informed him that Brother Grant had been convicted of sexual offences many years ago and was now dead. Jeremy felt disappointed and exhausted.
These days he feels more vulnerable than ever. His anger, although harmful, was also a source of strength, and as it falls away he finds himself getting weaker. The redress process has been particularly draining.
Recently Jeremy had a session with several representatives of the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process, including a senior member of the Marist Brothers. The representatives believed his claims and apologised for what was done to him. They asked him what he wanted from them and Jeremy said he wasn’t sure and would think it over.
Now he knows what he wants: more and better support services for victims of child sexual abuse who live in regional communities. Right now, he said, there is nowhere near enough support for people like him. He told the Commissioner that he’s been on the waiting list to see a counsellor for four months and still hasn’t had a session.
Jeremy is working on some detailed proposals to put to the Church. He has some simple, practical ideas.
‘There needs to be, in my view, a building out in the bush somewhere where at 10 o’clock at night or four o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the afternoon, you just jump in your car and go into this building, make a cup of coffee, sit down and watch TV.’