Konrad's story

‘It was like one priest would go to another and tell them who they had done this to, and then they were fair game.’

Konrad’s devout Catholic family was dominated by his father who was ‘a fair man’, but ‘pretty tough and strict’. He remembers his father making them pray on their knees in the lounge room, and flogging him and his siblings when they got in trouble. ‘It was a pretty unhappy childhood’, Konrad said, but ‘we stuck together as kids, you know, we looked out for each other. Mum was a bit of a softy, though. Things were good when Dad wasn’t around’.

Konrad grew up in a country town in Victoria in the 1970s, but occasionally his family drove to a nearby city to attend mass in a church connected to a Christian Brothers school. Konrad was sexually abused in this church by a priest who was in his 30s or 40s.

‘I was just doing altar service, and I got into the change room after the service and, to be honest, I can’t remember how it came to be that we were in that place, but he was touching me, and then he made me touch him. Like he was in that dress thing that they wear, and you know, he made me put my hands on him, on his bum. He was rubbing his hands all over my bum, touching me on the penis … Yeah that’s about as far as it went.’

Konrad, who was under 10 at the time, told no one about the abuse. He remembers later crying before mass to avoid serving as an altar boy for this same priest, then getting ‘a hiding’ from his father when they got home.

Konrad got back at the church by stealing money from the collection plate. Eventually he got caught, and his father gave him another ‘hiding’. After this, he was even more afraid to tell his parents about the abuse because he was sure that they would think he was lying.

A year or two later, Konrad and some of his primary school friends attended classes at the Christian Brothers school to prepare for their confirmation. At this school, Konrad was sexually abused by a different priest who seemed older and ‘higher up’ than the first one who had abused him. Back then, priests would ‘move around from parish to parish’, but Konrad thinks he remembers the man’s name - Father Anderson.

In a statement he brought to his private session, Konrad wrote that the ‘priest came to the class and asked to speak to me. He took me to an outside toilet near the church and he said he knew about the money I had stolen. He then said I needed cleansing from the inside. He removed my pants, stuck his penis in my anus. It really hurt. I remember the disgusting smell of the toilet. It was one of them toilets that you empty. The smell is like a reminder to me even to this day’.

Konrad said ‘I knew as soon as it happened that it wasn’t right, but I was ashamed, you know, I didn’t want people to know. Especially back then, you know, it was different … These days it’s okay to be gay … whereas back then all those things were, you know, bit touchy … You didn’t go there’.

When Konrad returned to class, he ‘sat there and said nothing’. When his parents later asked him if anything was wrong, he ‘couldn’t tell them’.

‘The following morning I woke and my bed had blood in it. So did my pyjamas. My mum thought I’d done a big poo, so I just agreed with her because I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t want to get into trouble.’

The sexual abuse ‘frightened the shit out of’ Konrad, and left him ‘terrified of every priest’. ‘Going Sunday, it was like running the gauntlet, you know. Is he going to be there? Do I have to do altar service? … It was all those things. It was like it every week. I hated church.’

In his mid-teens, Konrad turned to alcohol and marijuana, and later developed an addiction to heroin and ice which almost killed him. He said that his experience of sexual abuse ‘comes into my mind every day … The drugs you know they cut it out, but when you start coming down, you know, it pops straight back. There it is, the shame, the feeling dirty’.

Konrad also ‘came that close to going to jail’. ‘I did corrections orders, all sorts of things. Nothing ever violent. It wasn’t violent crime or anything. It was just petty crime, you know, but there was a lot. I’ve got a pretty bad criminal record which I’m not proud of.’

Konrad thinks that his experience of child sexual abuse ‘had something to do with’ the direction of his life. ‘But you know I’m not blaming anyone’, he said. ‘It’s my fault so I’m doing something about it now.’

A few years ago, when Konrad was in his mid-40s, his decision to get off the drugs ‘really helped’ him to speak up about his experience of sexual abuse for the first time. He told his girlfriend, and then a doctor. He never raised the matter with any of his counsellors, but he now feels the need to do more counselling because ‘every time I speak about it, I feel better’.

These days, Konrad is ‘an introvert’ who doesn’t go out much and likes his ‘alone time’. However, he has been clean for five years, and is looking forward to getting back into the workforce. He also has custody of his child from a previous relationship who is ‘an awesome kid’ who he is getting to know all over again.

Konrad changed his mind ‘many times’ about talking to the Royal Commission, but in the end, he knew that his supportive partner ‘would have been really disappointed’ if he didn’t go through with it. However, he admitted that he felt ‘a lot better’ after ‘just talking’ about his experience.

‘Coming here today has been very hard for me, but I feel I have to do this for me, to get some sort of closure. This is what happened, and it has changed a lot of things in my life, but I’m still here.’

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