‘I think men are encouraged - or were in the old days anyway - to just internalise everything, cop it sweet, just forget about it, and just go on with your life. Don’t dwell on things, you know. That’s the thing. Either you were expected to do that, or subconsciously you did it, or were told to do it’.
‘You could not go to your parents and say anything because you’re saying something against the Church. The Churches are just so far up there controlling lives and what people do, their morals, their workings. So if you were saying something against the Church, well you wouldn’t be believed for a start. So there’s just no point in it.’
Kerry started being sexually abused as soon as he moved into the Marist Brothers school near his home in the 1960s. He was nine years old and in a Year 5 class taught by Brother Gerald. After mentioning that he could play piano, the Brother kept Kerry back after school under the pretext of giving him lessons.
‘I’d start playing and he’d sit next to me, then he’d put his arm around me, and that’s how it sort of started. And then he started touching my genitals. And I don’t know, it just sort of went on from there.’
The abuse escalated quickly with Brother Gerald anally penetrating Kerry. ‘I would have to turn around sometimes and I don’t know what he’d put in, there was just a whole lot of things went on and I was able to look straight ahead and close my eyes and just be somewhere else.’
During the times of abuse, Kerry would imagine himself at the beach or on holiday. ‘At the beach. A holiday place ‘I could go to these places and … then it would end.’
Kerry told the Commissioner that as well as abusing him in a room away from the main school, Gerald also called him to his desk and fondled his genitals in front of the rest of the class. ‘It was the worst because you couldn’t get away. If you moved back a bit, he’d pull you in tighter. … You’d walk back down to your seat and everyone’s looking at you.’ Sometimes other boys would get called up to Gerald’s desk. ‘I had this hatred in me because I knew what the other boy was going through, but I was so happy it wasn’t me, you know.’
Many boys in class were abused by Gerald. They talked about it in ways like calling each other names like ‘poof’. Kerry said playing football provided an outlet for his anger then and in future years and he also often got into fights. ‘It doesn’t make sense. You know, you get older, and more mature and wiser … [but] if you can fight and if you’re strong and tough, people will respect you. I used that on the football field a lot, and had an unfortunate reputation for fighting.’
Kerry said the abuse stopped when he moved up into the next class, but he was horrified when one day Gerald said he was looking forward to meeting David, Kerry’s younger brother. That was the catalyst for Kerry and two other boys to go to the principal and report Gerald’s abuse. ‘I wanted it to stop, Kerry said. ‘I didn’t want David to have to go through it, you know.’
Brother William, the principal, asked the boys why they wanted to see him. Kerry replied that he didn’t think what Brother Gerald was doing was right. He said he ‘plays with your penis’.
Kerry said the response from Brother William was immediate. He exploded in a fit of rage, demanding to know whether the boys had told anyone else. They said they hadn’t. ‘He said, “Don’t you tell your parents. Don’t you tell anyone about this, and you never speak about this ever again. Do you understand me?” And he looked in my eyes. “Yes, Brother”, you know. “Now get out”. And that was it. So I walked out.’
The next day Brother Gerald was gone from the school. ‘He disappeared.’
In later years, Kerry found out David had been abused by another Marist Brother as well as by Brother Gerald in the short period he’d been in his class. ‘We didn’t really talk about the times of the abuse and everything. It was, “Oh, mate, you’ll be all right”, and “Let’s have a beer”.’
Kerry described David as the life of the party. ‘Everyone loved him. He was always master of stories. [He’d] walk into a room, and the room would light up. He’d tell a story and have everyone in fits of laughter.’ After some years though, things became difficult for David. ‘He ended up on drugs and alcohol and had a binge a few years ago and didn’t come out of it. That’s what ended up killing David.’
By the late 1990s, Kerry was having difficulty with alcohol and feelings of despair. His wife told the Commissioner that she and their two sons spent many difficult years trying to understand Kerry’s increasingly erratic behaviour. He expressed suicidal thoughts on several occasions but refused to accept professional help.
After Kerry finally disclosed the abuse to his wife, she encouraged him to see a counsellor. She also visited the head of the Marist Brothers and told him about Gerald’s sexual abuse. He responded by telling her that Gerald had left the Order decades earlier and asked if she wanted to see the Order’s recent building renovations.
Kerry told the Commissioner that he’d contacted NSW Police on two occasions to report Brother Gerald, but had never finalised a statement. Only recently had he reconsidered doing so.
‘I’m over it now, and I’ll just get on with my life and be an old man. And this is the weird thing, I have had still feelings of admiration for Brother Gerald. I mean, it doesn’t make sense, but he was a good teacher, and he did help me with my studies and my sport and all this, and he gave me lots of pats on the back and I felt good about myself.’
‘I’m glad I came and told you what happened, just to add my voice to the others because it did happen and people can’t say it didn’t.’