‘I can still tell you the names of the films he took me to, where and when. The whole lot.’
Leroy was 13 years old and living in regional Victoria in the early 1970s. He was a top student at his Catholic college and attended church regularly. His family were ‘very strong’ Catholics and he was brought up understanding that the parish priest , Father Blayney, was a ‘benefit’ and ‘welcome to the family’.
Leroy’s father was often away from home due to work commitments. Sensing that Leroy’s family needed assistance, Blayney quickly immersed himself into Leroy’s life. He became a close family friend and confidant.
For one year, Blayney sexually abused Leroy several times, including oral sex and digital penetration. He would often abuse Leroy in his car when it was parked outside Leroy’s home, before coming in for dinner.
Blayney would also take Leroy on fishing trips and day trips to the city, and pick him up after school to spend afternoons together. Leroy’s family approved of their relationship and Blayney was always welcome in their home.
Leroy was often called out of class by Blayney so he could assist with church services. Blayney would often take Leroy in his car so they could attend services away from the town. Leroy remembers once rearranging the service sheets in the wrong order as an act of rebellion against him.
‘I was walking around, putting them in order, one at a time. I thought “stuff it” and put them all backwards. He didn’t like it at all. Three women walk in as he was telling me I shouldn’t have done that and he walked around behind me, put his hand down the back of my jeans and he penetrated me with his finger and stood there … He could do what he wanted, when he wanted, where he wanted as he felt like it.’
Leroy’s behaviour changed dramatically after the abuse started. He found himself running away from home and constantly getting into trouble at school. From the ages of 13 to 17, his academic performance dropped. He could not tell anyone of the abuse and bottled it up.
Blayney was replaced by a new parish priest, Father Hobbs, when Leroy was 14 years old. Hobbs immediately noticed Leroy’s behaviour and he attempted to reach out. When Leroy was 16, Hobbs arrived at Leroy’s house and asked to speak to him. He questioned his behaviour and Leroy hit him across the face. Leroy then realised enough was enough and he confessed to Hobbs about Blayney’s abuse.
Leroy felt that the relationship he had with Hobbs was ‘completely different’ from his relationship with Blayney. He felt comfortable to know that Hobbs wanted to help with his situation. Hobbs told Leroy that he would report Blayney’s behaviour to his Church superiors. Leroy said that Hobbs was the only person that had the ‘complete, comprehensive detail’ about the sexual abuse as it scares Leroy to re-visit his past.
It disappointed Leroy to see Blayney around his hometown and in other parishes. When Leroy was 21 years old, Blayney would visit him at his workplace and would bring at least half a dozen young children that Blayney knew from the school or church. Leroy said that he would hide from Blayney because he ‘couldn’t handle it’ and he ‘knew what was going on with the kids’. Leroy later learned that Hobbs did in fact report Blayney, but nothing was done about Blayney’s behaviour.
Leroy has difficulty trusting people and can often tell when he’s being lied to. When Blayney was prosecuted for offences against Leroy in the late 1990s, Leroy’s wife threatened to leave him because he was neglecting his duties as a father and husband. His obsession with locking up his perpetrator was a huge priority.
Leroy sought counselling from other priests and found their answers were the same: to forgive and forget. He was angry with their response and even today finds the Church’s lack of empathy towards a life-long struggle to be frustrating. He has since lost faith in the Church and said that there’s ‘nothing there’ for him.
To this day, Leroy does not know how to forgive his perpetrator. After learning that the Pope forgave the man who attempted to assassinate him, Leroy sent a letter to him.
‘In the letter I wrote “How do I forgive someone who’s done to me what had been done? How do you learn to forgive what he had done?” The last thing that Jesus supposedly said was that he forgave the people that executed him. How do you forgive? How do you do that? Does that mean that I should forgive?’
Blayney was jailed for his crimes. Leroy was satisfied with the result but he wants more justice. He wants the Church, and the people who knew about Blayney, to accept responsibility for those that were abused. He said that if his story had been ‘believed and acted upon, then the other [abuses] would not have occurred’.
‘[Blayney] took my childhood away from me, [he] nearly took my family away. I didn’t talk to my parents for three years. There has to be some form of acknowledgement about that.’