From ages nine to 12 Lachlan was sexually abused by his teacher, Brother Matthew Scott. Scott was one of the Patrician Brothers who ran Lachlan’s school in Sydney in the 1980s. In the lead up to the first incident of abuse he groomed Lachlan by giving him lollies and excusing him from many of the violent punishments that were frequently inflicted on the other boys.
‘As an adult now’, Lachlan told the Commissioner, ‘those behaviours are so obvious. There were so many alarm bells’.
At the time, Lachlan had no idea that he was being preyed on. Even after Scott molested and raped him, Lachlan didn’t understand that such actions were criminal. Scott was friendly with Lachlan’s dad, and this contributed to Lachlan thinking that maybe his dad was okay with what Scott was doing to him and that the abuse was ‘normal’.
The abuse ended after about two years but its impact only deepened and soon Lachlan grew into an angry, violent teenager.
‘There was an incident in Year 11 where I ran around the school and took all the crucifixes that were in the rooms. And as I was doing it I was gathering a following of people cheering and clapping. I was getting all the crucifixes out of the rooms, and I made a pile of them in the smokers’ pit and I doused them with fluid and I was just about to set them on fire and then the principal was behind me, tapped me on the shoulder.’
Despite these and other incidents of ‘acting out’ no one ever asked Lachlan why he was so angry. And Lachlan didn’t tell them. Instead, his coping strategy was to bury his memories. Decades passed before he was finally able to open up to some friends. It was a positive experience.
‘I find talking to people helps a lot. I firstly do it through humour – dark or black humour. So about three of my friends know. It’s always in the third person. It’s always with tongue-in-cheek stuff.’
Gradually Lachlan’s self-awareness grew and he came to realise how profoundly the abuse had affected him. He came to see its hand at work in his failed relationships, his emotionally and physically abusive behaviour and his recurring nightmares.
Lachlan described one of these nightmares to the Commissioner. He is being pursued by a man down the street. To escape, Lachlan runs through a door into a room where a group of children are having a party. There is a ‘father figure’ in the room. He tells Lachlan that he is safe, and Lachlan feels safe for a little while.
Then there is a knock at the door and Lachlan’s fear reignites. He begs the father figure not to open the door but the father figure assures him that everything is okay and, after some discussion, it is Lachlan who opens the door. Outside the street is empty. Then as Lachlan looks back into the room he sees that ‘all the children in the long table with the party hats were all Matthew Scott’s faces, straight away looking at me’.
In the early 2010s Lachlan saw an image of Scott on television and this prompted ‘a breakdown or epiphany, I don’t know what they call it. But I’d built a very, very effective alter or secondary kind of life where [the abuse] didn’t happen. Protection. The big angry tattoos, the beard. Yes, protective mechanism. And I saw that and that’s when I thought I had to seek help straight away’.
Lachlan spoke to a lawyer and started legal action against the Catholic Church. Ultimately he received a payment of $300,000 minus $50,000 in legal fees. Even then Lachlan didn’t tell his wife about the abuse. She’s a sharp lady, he said, and has probably guessed the truth anyway.
Lachlan and his wife are now busy raising a young family. It’s not the life Lachlan expected for himself and he’s shocked that he’s been so fortunate.
‘I don’t know how I’m not dead or in jail … So if they say focus on the positives, the positives are: I’m alive. The positives are I’ve got an opportunity to show that there is life after that. That there are possibilities of redemption, forgiveness.’