‘I want to speak out. I just don’t want people to be caught, in the same way that I’ve been caught. There’s no help. The Church gives you no help whatsoever after these things happen to you. It’s almost a denial, you might say.’
In the late 1940s, Langham went into Grade 5 at a Marist Brothers college in southern Sydney. His teacher was Brother Krendall, ‘a grub, as far as I’m concerned’.
‘Not being very bright at school, they tend to put you down the back of the classroom. All the brighter kids are up forwards so they could, you know, learn better or whatever. Either that or he put us down the back so as he could carry on with what he was doing.
‘You’re sitting down the back and he would come down … and he’d sort of kneel down and he’d put his arm around you and he’d talk to you real … real softly … I can remember him saying, “I’m going to help you. I’m going to help you out”.
‘And at the time we only wore short trousers … and he’d put his hand up the leg of your trousers and start interfering with you. And he would just do that, at the back of the class.
‘And there were times when he would take you out the front of the class, sit you on his knee and interfere with you again. In front of the class.
‘It was now, and then it might be tomorrow, it might be the next day … you just didn’t know.
‘This took place over the whole time that I was there.’
For a long time, Langham didn’t know that he should tell someone about what the Brother was doing. But, after a comment from one of his classmates, he spoke to his parents. Their response was ‘Don’t be silly, they wouldn’t do that’ and he was dismissed. ‘So therefore, I was the liar, I was the one that was wrong. It was the truth.’
Very soon after, however, something was done about Krendall. ‘I’m not sure if it was my uncle, or somebody, went to [the principal], and on the Monday we went to school, and he had gone. He just disappeared.’
Langham didn’t stay long at the Marist college after that. He moved to a state high school, but left in his early teens and got a job.
‘The impact was: one – my education, I mean, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know that some of the things I could have learnt, I really know that. And there’s a few things that I can excel in but again, not having that little bit of education confidence, you know, that’s the saddest part.’
As Langham got older, he never felt he could talk about the abuse. ‘You couldn’t say things, you couldn’t tell your mates those sort of things had happened to you because it was regarded as queer, and of course I wasn’t queer.
‘I felt dirty, I felt different, you know? It made life difficult because I couldn’t see a way around it …
‘In the end I tried to shut it out. Alcohol helped for a long, long time, but there comes a point where it don’t work anymore. Then I met this woman and everything was good for a long time but … everything would go well and all of a sudden … you’d fall down a hill.’
In the early 90s he met the woman he described as ‘the love of my life’, and they were together for 20 years before she passed away. ‘And of course that left another bloody great hole. Still a bloody great hole in my life.’
In the early 2010s, after becoming incensed at a TV interview with a senior member of the Catholic Church, Langham decided to report the sexual abuse. He eventually met with a bishop from Towards Healing.
‘He said to me, “You can’t go to the police because there’s a statute of limitations on this”. And I say, “Well, okay”, you know, and I believe him ... I think he would’ve said anything, he just wanted to get out of there.
‘A couple of days later, a Marist Brother … came and seen us. He said, “What do you want?” And I said, “I want a letter of apology, I want an apology”. And he said, “Well, we’re very sorry”. It was just so … I didn’t expect him to grovel or anything like that but it was just … just so callous.’
After meeting with a Church-appointed psychiatrist and a team of its lawyers, Langham received some compensation.
‘And I asked them, would they give me any [psychiatric] help. They said no, you’re on your own, you’ll have to fix that up. And all they did was want to get me … once they gave me the money, get out.’
Langham didn’t get counselling because he didn’t know how to go about it. But his partner was a great help, even helping him to reduce his drinking. ‘She was the best thing that ever happened to me.’
After his private session, Langham was going to speak to a counsellor from the Royal Commission.
‘I’m happy, within myself. I’m very lonely at the moment … I do need support ... When I’m sitting down of a night time, and of course I have a drink … you think about things.’
He believes that the world today is much more aware of sexual abuse, but the education must continue.
‘I want … that it never happens again to any kid. No kid should have to go through it. Or nobody. I mean, people in aged care and stuff. They don’t deserve this.’