‘I tried to put that sort of stuff out of my mind, wouldn’t talk about it to someone my own age and stuff because it was like you’d been interfered with. It is really hard to talk about, it’s embarrassing to say the least, it’s embarrassing to think of it and how to speak of it.’
Marc’s tendency to stay quiet and not talk about the child sexual abuse he experienced became a coping mechanism that he carried throughout life.
‘I don’t think I ever spoke about it again. I supressed the memory. I couldn’t even tell my mother or father. Sometimes I would remember this happened to me and I’d say, “This guy used to wander the dorms at night”. I even told my uncle, but the actual being touched and interfered with stuff is like a deeply supressed memory.’
Marc and his brothers had been made wards of the state when Marc was still a toddler. His mother was Catholic, and the boys were placed in various Catholic-run children’s homes around Melbourne. In the late 1960s, when he was eight, Marc was sent to a boys’ home run by a Catholic order where he quickly became used to the Brothers’ focus on spiritual guidance and punishment, rather than on a rounded education.
Within a year, Marc was in Brother Cecil’s dorm, and another Brother, who wasn’t resident at the home, came in to take charge of the boys when Brother Cecil was busy working elsewhere. Marc didn’t know his name.
‘This chap would sit me on his knee and rub his stubble against my face … He had me so close I couldn’t really object … It was so uncomfortable what this person was doing. I think he was even trying to kiss me, or at least nuzzling me. It was kind of an intimacy I didn’t want.’
A year later, Marc was moved into a different dorm, looked over by Brother Michael. Another Brother, John, joined the home and started behaving erratically, saying one thing and doing another, or suddenly flying into fits of rage.
‘He started appearing at night after lights out in Brother Michael’s dorm, ostensibly to be doing the rounds, making sure the boys were in bed and everything is quiet. But this fellow would wake me up at night with a torch in my face and tapping the bed, making sure I was asleep you would think, and then wanting to know if I was erect and then reaching for my junk and trying to toss me off. To me it was like a gross invasion.’
Marc said he wasn’t able to do anything to stop it happening. The most he could do was yell out, hoping someone else would wake up and take notice of what was going on, which they did. The abuse continued for a period of time, then somehow Brother John’s activities became known and Marc was called in to see Brother Michael.
‘He’d heard or I’d told him or he questioned me and I don’t know what he said. It was vague, like, “We’ll keep this private”. I don’t think he mentioned anything about the police. The other boys possibly had alerted other Brothers and stuff because this behaviour was getting out of hand, repetitive, and there was more than one victim.’
Marc was moved out of that dorm and Brother John left him alone after that. However, he remained at the home and Marc said he believes his abusive behaviour continued.
Marc left the home in his mid-teens to find work and return to living with his mother. Choosing not to dwell on his past, he became a machinist and wanted to do further training, but it didn’t pan out well. His mother was already suffering from poor mental health and when one of his brothers returned home, also suffering severe mental health problems, Marc’s life collapsed. He tried some counselling but didn’t discuss the childhood abuse, saying ‘I was more occupied with what was going on at home. My home life was in chaos’. He had trouble finding work and is now on a disability support pension.
Marc said that he hasn’t really coped with his past.
‘Occasionally I’d think about it … I’d think about the things that happened at [the home] but a lot of that was repressed I’d say. Just trying to keep it out of my mind. It’s not something that I really wanted to relish.’
He saw on the news that Brother John had been jailed for sex offences and was relieved that ‘he got what he deserved’. However, he feels like the police failed him by not investigating any evidence from himself and other boys who were there at the time.
Coming forward to the Royal Commission was the first time Marc had told anyone the full details of his story. He was grateful to receive the Commission’s help in reporting Brother John to the police, to access appropriate counselling and to look into any compensation he might qualify for.
‘I think great, bring it on. The guy still hasn’t faced all his crimes. He hasn’t been truthful because he never admitted his other crimes … only what he was charged with.’