In telling his story, Larry chose to read from three graphically detailed police statements. He told the Commissioner, ‘I’m sorry to be telling you all this, I just have to get this story out’.
Born in Melbourne in the mid-1960s, Larry attended a Christian Brothers school from about age nine to age 16. During his second year at the school he was repeatedly sexually abused by his Grade 5 teacher, Brother Donnelly.
Larry said he wasn’t Donnelly’s only victim. ‘There were certain kids that would get picked out and sent to Brother Donnelly’s office. I remember looking at them, and they would look at me, and we knew what was going to happen. But you never talked about it.’
Donnelly concluded each session by warning Larry not to tell anyone what had happened. One time Larry ignored this warning and told his mother that the Brother had been hitting him across the buttocks. Larry’s mother smacked him and called him a liar. Then when his father got home, Larry copped another beating. After that he didn’t see much point in reporting Donnelly.
Larry said that as a result of the abuse he developed a ‘fear of people in authority … Brother Donnelly made me feel guilty for what he did to me all my life, and this guilt has constantly impacted on the choices I’ve made’.
Larry left the school at 16 and started an apprenticeship. Around this time he developed some health problems and went to see a man named Doctor Burnette. Larry’s problem had nothing to do with his groin region but Doctor Burnette stripped him down and massaged the area anyway. Larry got an erection.
‘He said that that was okay, it happened all the time. I was a nervous wreck and was feeling really panicked because I felt embarrassed at having an erection in front of another male.’
Soon afterwards Larry left, but not before the doctor booked him in for another appointment the following week. At that appointment Doctor Burnette got Larry to lie on the examination table and pull down his pants. He then masturbated Larry.
Another appointment was made for the following week, and another after that and soon Larry was visiting the doctor after hours every week. He said the sessions began with the doctor masturbating him and over time escalated to other forms of sexual abuse, including oral and anal sex. After a few weeks the doctor started to pay Larry $20 every session.
As well as the money, Larry had other reasons for continuing to see the doctor. ‘After about my tenth visit I asked Doctor Burnette if any other boys got erections while he was treating them. He said yes. I then asked him did he do it with any other patients. He said, “No, I only do it with you”. After that I figured if I kept coming back he would not do it to anyone else, it would be only me and it would save someone else from going through it.’
Aside from the sexual abuse, it was a hectic time of life for Larry. Within a five year period his father died, he got married, had a child, separated from his wife and lost his business.
In the mid-1990s Larry saw Doctor Burnette for the last time. ‘I decided once I turned 30 I would stop seeing him and risk the consequences of him doing whatever he wanted to do, because I’d lost everything and there was nothing else that could go wrong.’
During this period Larry’s mental health hit rock bottom and he attempted suicide several times. From there he made his very first disclosures of the abuse, talking to his wife, his mother and to an officer from the Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA).
The CASA officer told Larry that there was a ‘99% chance’ that Doctor Burnette had abused other boys as well. This inspired Larry to contact police. Unfortunately, because no one else had come forward to give evidence against the doctor, Larry was told that there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, and the case was dropped.
A few years later, Larry reported Brother Donnelly to police. In contrast to the case against Doctor Burnette, there were many people who came forward to press charges against Donnelly. But it took a long time for the case to be prosecuted and Larry found the delay particularly traumatising.
Donnelly has since been charged and convicted of multiple offences against children. Doctor Burnette is still walking free, but Larry said he no longer practises medicine.
A few years back, Larry received some redress and support from the Christian Brothers. He said, ‘I’m lucky in some ways. I’ve had hundreds of hours of counselling. I know how to logically see things through as an adult and I can process things a lot different. I have my really bad days sometimes. But they apologised, the Christian Brothers apologised, they gave me a letter. And that’s all I ever wanted.’