Luka was brought up by his mother in a suburb of Sydney in the mid-1970s. When he was eight years old, his father left the family. His mother was a devout Catholic and welcomed the priests of their local church warmly into the family home. Luka attended church regularly and also participated in the youth camps that the church ran.
Luka and his siblings attended a Catholic primary school in the mid-1980s. It was here that Luka came into contact with Brother Alex, who taught at the school. They developed a close bond and it wasn’t long before Brother Alex started spending time with Luka after school hours. He was a welcome visitor at Luka’s home and trusted to have unsupervised time with the children.
Over a period of five years, Luka was abused at least 12 times by Brother Alex. On one occasion he was raped while on a school camp. Another time, Brother Alex abused Luka in his own bedroom and then answered the front door to Luka’s mother who invited him for dinner. He stayed that afternoon ‘as if nothing had happened’.
Luka felt it his ‘duty’ to protect his brothers and made sure that they were never alone with Brother Alex. He believes this is why Brother Alex continued to abuse him and not them. When he was 11, he was again raped by Brother Alex at a church camp. Luka felt compelled to remain silent about the abuse because he was scared of Brother Alex who had a tough, dominating personality.
‘I was threatened by Brother Alex. He said, “No one will believe you”. He used to hit me when I wouldn’t do what he wanted me to do … The main reason I didn’t tell anyone is because I didn’t want Mum to feel responsible or guilty over what happened to me.’
Luka continued through primary school and high school quietly suffering. He said he didn’t feel ‘worthy’ enough to be there. He went to a high school that was still associated with the Church, so Brother Alex had access to him but it was limited. After one school camp, Brother Alex stopped talking to Luka. He believes it was because he had turned 15 and was starting to get stronger.
After finishing high school in the late 1980s, Luka went to university and became a teacher. He married and had children, a stable career and a successful life. He said he did not feel the impact of the abuse until his daughter turned 10, the age at which he was first abused. Luka worried that he might become an abuser himself and tried not to be around his daughter’s friends.
‘I was worried, not about her, but her friends coming over to the house. Psychologically, in the back of my head I suppose, I needed to leave the house to protect her friends.’
In the early 2010s, Luka took some indecent photographs of school children. He said he ‘wanted to be caught’ and it ‘didn’t take much’ for his actions to be exposed. Consequently, Luka’s wife took their children and left him. He was convicted and given a good behaviour bond, and had his name put on the Child Protection Register.
Luka remains unsure of the motivations behind his crimes. He believes it was ‘the right thing to do at a Catholic school but not at a public school’, and linked it back to being abused himself. He said he would never hurt or offend against his own or any other child, including the girls he photographed.
He described feelings of depression due to his separation from his family. He has nightmares and can only sleep for ‘two to three hours a night, most nights’. He sees a counsellor regularly and his parents call him at least once a week to check on him.
‘I feel doubly punished already, suffering a lot of losses. [I’ve lost] my childhood, family, work, home, wife. I can’t even see my kids on my own.’
Luka believes there should be a hotline for people to call if they are thinking about offending against a child. He also suggests that there should be ‘community education’ about child sexual abuse and its impacts. He suggested that authority figures like police and probation officers be educated about the impacts of child sexual abuse and why it needs to be treated with care.
‘I don’t want this to happen to any other kid. I want systems put in place to better protect children.’