When Lyndon tries to think about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child he finds himself confronted with a psychological tangle. Consequences of the sexual abuse intertwine with consequences of the physical abuse he also suffered, and all of this is further complicated by associated feelings of responsibility, empowerment and shame.
The threads of Lyndon’s story first became entangled in the early 1970s when he and his family moved onto a property that was situated next door to a Catholic monastery.
Lyndon, who was about nine years old at the time, quickly formed a bond with several of the Catholic Brothers. He came to depend on them as a means of controlling his father’s violent behaviour.
‘When I could feel that the mood – or I was preempting that the aggression or violence was happening at home – I would make an excuse and find a reason to dash out next door to the monastery and seek some help from the Brothers. And often that was Brother Maddox and Brother Stern.’
The mere presence of the Brothers in the house would calm his father and save his mother and himself from another beating. He called on the Brothers regularly and they always came to his aid.
This situation went on for about a year before Maddox and Stern began using Lyndon’s cries for help as an opportunity to sexually abuse him, in ways that included penetration and oral sex. Lyndon accepted the abuse as a price he had to pay to protect his family.
‘It became this kind of rescue situation where I had a position where I could rescue Mum from her physical abuse by going to my own little kind of secret world that was happening up there … In some ways it was the only thing that gave me some power in my home situation, that I could then go and diffuse that. But then there was another cost in relation to that. But that was my cost.’
Lyndon came to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the abuse he suffered. It’s taken him 40 years to begin to understand that at the time he was just a child who was not responsible at all for the criminal actions of his abusers.
The abuse ended when Lyndon was 14. ‘I was starting to really feel uncomfortable and distressed about the connection and the relationship with the Brothers, plus home was very difficult.’ To get away from the Brothers and his father he dossed down with friends until he was able to get his own place.
Lyndon was always an ‘overachiever’ at school and carried this tendency into his working life. He cited his highly-developed problem-solving abilities as one of the few positive impacts of his traumatic childhood.
Sadly, his experiences also led to many negative impacts, including depression, self-sabotage, social isolation and confusion about sexuality. How much of this is directly referable to the sexual abuse, Lyndon doesn’t know.
‘Whether that’s to do with my sexuality and the years that I lived or to do with the Brothers or to do with my father, you know, how do you separate that stuff?’
This uncertainty is part of the reason why Lyndon hasn’t applied for any compensation from the Catholic Church. Still, he plans to explore his legal options and the possibility of counselling.
Before approaching the Royal Commission, Lyndon had never mentioned the abuse to anyone. He’s talked about it to a few people now and has found that every time he does so, the issue gets a little less tangled.
‘It’s almost like I’m gaining insight as I’m speaking.’