‘I am a loner and always have been. I cannot communicate with people. I cannot talk to women. I am slowly improving. I had terrible self-esteem until a few years ago. I used to walk with my head down. I tell the world now what happened to me as a child and I am no longer ashamed, as I realise that none of this was my fault.’
Lorenzo’s mother died when he was very young, and he and his siblings were made state wards. He had limited contact with his father growing up, but remembers him as a violent man.
The children were placed in a Catholic orphanage in regional Victoria in the early 1960s, when Lorenzo was around eight years old. During this period he largely lost contact with his sisters, as the girls lived at a different site.
Lorenzo told the Royal Commission that he was sexually and physically abused by a number of the nuns at this facility. Corporal punishment was severe, and included being caned all over his body. The Sisters would stick needles and plastic into his urethra if he wet the bed. ‘They damaged my penis and it is still difficult to urinate.’
Sometimes they would take Lorenzo from his bed and into the toilets and make him perform oral sex. He believes other boys were being abused in similar ways.
After a year or two Lorenzo was moved to a regional Christian Brothers children’s home, staying there until the mid-60s. A few months after he arrived, Brother Cummings came up behind him, rubbing his groin into his backside.
When he disclosed this incident to the priest running the orphanage, he was told the Brother would not to do any such thing. ‘The adult in charge should be compelled to act on complaints. An outside agency should be regularly visiting the kids in care, with authority to protect and act promptly on any allegations.’
After this Lorenzo was sexually abused by Cummings, and a staff member called Mr Brown. They raped him and forced him to provide oral sex or masturbate them. This abuse happened on an almost daily basis, sometimes several times a day, with the men acting individually or together.
Cummings and Brown made Lorenzo and another boy perform sexual acts on each other. When Lorenzo first met this other child he was jealous, as the men had said they loved him and he was upset they also wanted someone else. Two older boys also made Lorenzo fellate them. Lorenzo did not disclose any of this abuse, as after his initial reporting was dismissed he did not think he would be believed.
When Lorenzo was in his early teens and still at this home, he attended the local scout group and was sexually abused by the leader. He was also sexually abused by an employer, and this man allowed others to abuse him, too.
After moving to a Franciscan Brothers boys’ home in his mid-teens, he was again physically and sexually assaulted. This facility provided education and training, and one of the teachers ‘would molest me and masturbate me and make me do it to him’.
Lorenzo spoke to the Commissioner about the impacts of this ongoing, brutal abuse. He became oversexualised as a child, and this affected his understanding of sexuality as an adult. For example, he did not understand that he could refuse sexual advances, and so continued to be sexually assaulted by men.
‘I went along not knowing that I could say no. I did not know it was sexual assault as I had been doing it all my life. I thought it was normal.’
His capacity to study was diminished and he left school early. This limited his options for employment, and he could only find work doing manual labour. ‘If these experiences of sexual and physical abuse had not happened to me I believe I would have been clever – most of my siblings had professional careers.’
Lorenzo married and had children, but he no longer sees them. He did not disclose the abuse to any of his partners, but wishes he had. ‘I think if I get married again, my wife would know everything – I would tell my wife about these things and then I won’t feel guilty, which was a big thing.’ He has lost touch with his siblings and members of his extended family, and has often been homeless.
For much of his adult life Lorenzo has received a disability pension due to his mental health, and he struggled with drug addiction for many years. While he stopped using hard drugs a decade ago, he still self-medicates with marijuana.
Lorenzo first started talking about the abuse in detail when he was almost 60, after engaging with a community self-help group. ‘I had hoped to encourage others in the group to feel they could talk about their abuse.’ He receives significant support from a service dedicated to helping people who were in institutional care as kids.
After this Lorenzo reported Cummings to police. The officers and public prosecutors he dealt with treated him well, and the Brother was jailed for sexual offences against a large number of boys.
Lorenzo is currently engaged in civil proceedings regarding compensation. Understanding that he was not to blame for the abuse in his childhood was a great turning point.
‘Now I honestly believe it’s got nothing to do with me, I’ve never done anything wrong. It was all their fault. It took me a long time to hold my head up high.’