‘She would not let me go to the toilet and I would wet my pants. She would then take me out of the classroom into a small room where she pulled my pants down and struck me with a feather duster ... She would require me to bend over, and after lowering my pants she would fondle my anus and genitalia with the end of the feather duster. I am left with the impression that she would stick the end of the feather duster into my backside. I believe in hindsight that I was being preyed upon for the nun’s perverse sexual gratification.’
When Lawrence was six years old, he lived with his mother in Sydney’s western suburbs. He attended the local Catholic school where he was sexually abused by the head nun.
Being so young, he didn’t really understand what she was doing to him with the feather duster. He wasn’t able to tell anyone about this abuse at the time, or for many years afterwards.
‘I have not come forward previously because of the embarrassing nature of the behaviour. It is only because the world has changed and other people have come forward that I have the courage to come forward.’
Lawrence began talking about the abuse after seeing stories of clerical child sexual abuse in the media, more than 30 years after he left the school. When he spoke to the Royal Commission he also provided a written statement about his experiences.
The abuse had significant ongoing impacts for Lawrence. He began using drugs in his teens, got into trouble with the law, and moved around a lot. He hasn’t been able to maintain employment for very long, and has had suicidal ideation. ‘I have little interest in life. I have no interest in money or the future.’
Personal relationships have also been difficult. ‘I don’t trust women. I am scared of them ... The inability to have a normal family life and children has been a great disappointment to me.’
He recently approached the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process, and told them about the abuse. They offered him a number of ‘spiritual counselling’ sessions, but no financial compensation. He no longer has anything to do with the Church.
Lawrence told the Royal Commission the abuse has ‘nagged me all my life. It keeps coming up in my dreams. I have tried taking anti-depressants, and seen psychologists, but I have never been able to talk about what happened to me’.
He finds that playing sport helps him deal with the memories. Still, he doesn’t feel he has ever fully moved on from the abuse.
‘I think I’m still stuck at five years old somehow. I’ve still got a very, very immature attitude all through life. Something’s just stuck in that time.’