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Keiran John's story

Keiran’s father worked hard to get him into his Jesuit-run high school in the 1960s. His two older brothers had received scholarships but Keiran’s grades weren’t good enough. So his father, who had studied to be a Jesuit priest but was never ordained, pulled some strings.

‘Mum and Dad both worked, not particularly good jobs, and he couldn’t have afforded the fees. So I went there, I think without paying fees for the entire time. So had I gone back and said to Dad, “Oh by the way, you know the great place you sent me, they’ve done us a fantastic favour, this has been going on”, he would have said “No it hasn’t”.’

When Keiran was in Grade 8 the sports teacher, Mr Milson, took an interest in him. Keiran was young for his year group and not great at sport, and he thinks maybe that’s why he seemed like a good target.

‘I can remember he was occasionally there when I was getting changed and he’d talk to me about sex and at 12 and 13 I didn’t even know what he was talking about. He was talking about masturbating … And then he initiated this idea of him driving me home. He drove me home on a couple of occasions. I suppose he had been grooming me. I didn’t even think of that term then of course, but I was very young.’

Sometimes when they drove home together, Milson would let Keiran steer the car along a side street and then fondle his genitals through his clothes. On another occasion, Keiran hurt himself during gym class and Milson took him to the toilets to look at the injury, which was in his groin area. Milson got him to take his pants down and then masturbated him.

‘He was the first person who ever touched me inappropriately, the first person who ever masturbated me, which is a pretty serious sort of activity. And I just thought “What is he doing?” No-one can do that. I mean my own dad would have been careful drying me after the bath at home, where you touch boys and where you touch girls. So I knew that it was something that shouldn’t be done, but I didn’t know it was a crime.’

Keiran avoided Milson after that and he wasn’t abused again. But with the emphasis on sporting achievement at the school, Keiran felt there was nobody he could tell.

‘Had I gone to the heads and said “It’s not the cleaner, it’s not the maths teacher, it’s your sporting teacher who’s doing this”, disbelief, if not cover up, would have been paramount, I’m sure.’

Keiran continued at the school through to Year 12 with no further incidents. He got into university, where he met his wife. They’ve been married nearly 40 years and have several children. He went on to have a stable career, eventually running his own business.

But the abuse did have an impact. Keiran has struggled with low self-esteem and self-doubt, and finds it difficult to take men into his confidence. He said he avoids conflict at all costs, and although he’s quick to jump into new ideas, he has difficulty finishing any sort of project.

‘When I think about the way I do protect myself or the way I have trouble finishing things, maybe in the back of my mind, the situation in the toilets or in the car with Milson I would think about all the time. And I suppose when you think about it you think how horrible it was. Who would you want to tell? When some bloke abuses you as he did, it’s really hard to know who you can talk to about it.’

In the early 2000s Keiran told his wife after she disclosed her own story of sexual abuse, and he said they’ve been a great support for each other. He’s never felt the need to see a counsellor or psychologist.

Since coming to the Royal Commission, Keiran has made a statement to police. They informed him that someone else had reported Milson and are now investigating the case.

His main motivation now is to go back to the school and tell them what happened. Milson was a lay teacher, but Keiran said the school should have been watching him just as closely as the priests on staff. The school has recently admitted other allegations of sexual abuse, and Keiran thinks there will be more.

‘If they’re starting to come to some realisation that it was serious I just want to be part of that number, because it was serious. And if it was that serious how can you have not second-guessed what was going on? So I just add weight to the fact that you didn’t do what I believe you should have done.’

He’s not interested in pursuing the school for compensation. ‘The Jesuits, who pride themselves on being the most moral and intellectual and high-brow and outstanding institutions, should have handled this better than [they] did. So I would like, not even an apology really, but some recognition that they blew it and they absolutely should have been onto it more. And they have to make sure that it never happens again.’

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