‘I wanted to kind of just also say, to sort of acknowledge the fact that I’m a transgender person. It’s not necessarily relevant, but I also go by the name Macy.’
For most of her life, Macy lived as a male. She went to a Catholic boys’ secondary school in Victoria and was sexually abused there over many years by the chaplain, Father Gerard Keegan.
The abuse started in the early 1980s when Macy, who was then 12 years old, went to see Keegan for advice.
‘I had a lot of anxiety in my life and I probably had what I now look back on as, like, a social anxiety sort of issue’, Macy said. ‘And my parents thought it was a good idea to go and see a counsellor and of course being a priest my mum thought it was a really good idea …
‘I thought it was a good idea too, so I went to see him. They gave him a little room in the main building, and he had such a “no rules” kind of attitude so I could do things like smoke in the office and that kind of thing and I got really comfortable after some time.’
As the abuse started and then escalated, Macy became resigned to it. ‘I was very much entrenched with this abuse [that] was going on all the time. And we’d gone on trips together interstate and I was very blasé about my life by then. I’d lost a lot of my self-esteem and I was just sort of going along, you know, like I had no real control or power in it.’
Macy’s parents didn’t question when she moved into the religious house that was part of the school, at first staying occasional nights and eventually living there full time. Keegan occupied the top floor of the building and the school’s Christian Brothers lived below.
Macy’s education suffered and she went from being a ‘top student’ to failing everything. Although many people, including teachers, a nun and the housekeeper expressed suspicions about Macy staying with the priest, no one took any action because Keegan was ‘persuasive’ and ‘had the authority’.
After leaving school Macy continued sexual contact with Keegan, but soon realised ‘the relationship’ wasn’t normal and stopped. She continued other contact with him until the late 1990s.
‘The reason I came out of it is because I ended up having a child and that kind of gave me hope.
‘That changed my life, that positive thing happening but up until then I went on a very self-destructive course and I had a lot of social problems. It’s now at this point of almost finishing studies - I had to prove to myself that I could do it, and I’ve gone back to study and tried to, you know, make the achievements I knew I could.’
Macy told the Commissioner she felt like she’d ‘lost a couple of decades’ trying to block out memories of the abuse.
‘Drug abuse, alcohol abuse and also risky activity. I went through this pattern from about 17 to 22 of getting drunk in bars and going off with guys twice my age. I just, I feel lucky to be alive in a lot of ways and I just had a really low sense of worth and I felt that’s all I was useful for. So thankfully I came out of all that and luckily, because at the time I was in a good relationship and we had a child and that’s what showed me that there’s another way of living.’
Nearly 10 years ago, Macy disclosed the abuse to her mother who was devastated, particularly because she’d maintained a relationship with Keegan herself after Macy left school.
‘She’s got a lot of problems from this’, Macy said. ‘She feels very racked with guilt. She fully knows and she’s glad that I’ve come forward now, but she’s in need of support I think for the future.’ Macy’s father was also affected. ‘I suppose I shouldn’t speak for him but I think knowing him, he might feel a little embarrassed about the fact that another male came in and sort of on the surface took over a carer role kind of thing.’
More recently, Macy reported the abuse to Victoria Police and, at the time of coming to the Royal Commission, the matter was still being investigated. One of the things that frustrated her was that abuse by Keegan that occurred in other states couldn’t be included amongst the charges brought in Victoria.
To date, Macy hasn’t sought compensation. She knows of the Church’s Towards Healing program, but isn’t planning to apply for it.
‘I’m not convinced that they’re actually there to help the victims and I’ve heard so many accounts of people who have had negative experiences going through those things. So my feeling is that I’d like to prosecute them and the institutions that were in charge of them. That’s the school and the order, and then when that’s done and I feel that justice is done then I’ll seek compensation. But not through their system, through the courts. I don’t think it’s right that they should even have their own system, actually.’
Macy said the abuse continues to have ‘a huge effect’ on her life. She’s worried that contemporary plans to expand school chaplaincy programs will result in unqualified people like Keegan having further access to vulnerable children.
‘These were the first sexual experiences I’d had and so they left an imprint and I don’t think it’s something I can come back from completely. And so I think indirectly the relationship I went on to have with a person failed because of this. It feels like something’s damaged and so on that emotional level and with the depression, a lot of anxiety has come as well and it’s taken me a long time to come to a point where I am now, where I feel like I’m finally coming into who I am. I think it twisted all that up and I didn’t really know who I was for a long time.’