Karl Harry's story

‘If he came to the guy next to you, you’d hope to God you weren’t next.’

Karl, one of a large Catholic family, attended a Christian Brothers school outside Sydney in the 1970s. When he was 10 years old, the junior school gained a new principal, Brother Jones, who also taught Karl in Grades 5 and 6. It wasn’t long before Brother Jones started sexually abusing boys in class with Karl touched inappropriately by Jones at least once a week for two years.

Jones would often stand behind a boy to check their work, touch their chest and make his way down to their genitals. Jones did this while pressing his erection into the boy’s back or neck. Karl said Jones would pick a row of students and make his way across, touching every child as he went. On several occasions, Jones forced his hands down Karl’s pants and stroked his penis in front of the whole class.

Karl described Jones as ‘vicious’. The Brother owned a very large leather strap with which he hit students brutally – often several times a day. Karl was also called into Jones’ office for ‘private sessions’ on occasions. Here, Jones chose to beat, abuse or simply chat to Karl. Karl said it ‘terrified’ him not knowing what type of punishment was coming.

‘It was all around getting beaten with the strap. He just seemed to beat us all day, every day, and he’d target people. I remember we made a competition of it with a badge of honour or bravery. [My classmates] and I were one, two and three so I was the third highest. We’d been strapped over 100 times: 196, 154 and 129 … he’d bring you into the classroom to beat you and stick his hands down your pants.’

When Karl was 12 years old, he discovered that his younger brother, Sean, was also being abused by Jones. Because they shared a room at home they could talk freely about the abuse.

Karl and Sean decided to tell their parents about Jones’ violent behavior. Karl admitted that he and his brother did not clearly state they had been sexually abused, so their parents may have not understood exactly what they meant. 

He believes his father chose to understand that being strapped by his teacher meant he ‘was naughty’. Karl would ‘cop a beating’ from his father as further punishment and believed he couldn’t tell anyone about the sexual abuse.

After Grade 6, Karl attended high school up to Year 10 on a different campus.

Since leaving school Karl, admittedly ‘restless’, has been employed in more than 200 jobs. He moved overseas for decades because he could not settle or ‘find a place’ to ‘fit in’.

‘I’d go home every year to go visit [my family], but I could not live here. I hated my country, I hated my government … I didn’t know why I hated it, I had to justify hating it. It was very strange because I would come home and feel like I can’t be here too long.’

Karl finds sexual relationships challenging and spent many years celibate. He married twice, but both relationships ended and he said he has been hypervigilant as a parent. However, Karl has hopes of restoring his most recent relationship. After a number of years in counselling, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with both narcissistic personality and borderline personality disorders.

Last year Karl heard a radio broadcast about Brother Jones’s conviction in relation to child sexual abuse. Karl went immediately to the police to report his own experience with Jones, the first time he had spoken in detail about it apart from with his brother. Others who attended the same school as well as another school where Jones had taught previously also made police reports.

Karl attended court proceedings but remains very angry about the lenient sentence Jones received for child sexual abuse offences in relation to multiple victims for which he was jailed for less than four years but is eligible for parole after two years.

‘You have no idea how close I went to jumping the dock,’ he told the Commissioner. ‘I was watching the two cops, they are weak, skinny, unarmed. I said I could get to Jones and snap his neck in two seconds … The only thing that stopped me was [that] if I killed him he wouldn’t suffer. He was going to jail and I wanted him to suffer.’

Karl despises the Catholic Church. He blames the Christian Brothers order for the abuse he suffered and recommends they not be allowed to operate any school. Both a criminal and civil case against Jones and the religious order in relation to Karl are proceeding.

Meanwhile he is ‘couch-surfing’ and has no stable home or employment. Karl is so consumed with anger about the abuse he cannot thing about anything else.


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